Cantonese cuisine is one of China’s Eight Famous Cuisines and it’s also known as the ‘Guangdong cuisine’ (广东菜) or ‘Yue cuisine’ (粤菜). Cantonese food was the first Chinese food style that was introduced to the West, as the early days’ Chinese immigrants were from Guangdong province.
Today, it remains one of the most popular Chinese cuisines in the world, though many Cantonese dishes have their ‘Westernised version’. The flavours of the original Cantonese food should be fresh, natural, mild and a little sweet. Here is a list of our favourite authentic Cantonese dishes with video recipes, make sure to give it a try!
1. Boiled Shrimps (Bai Zhuo Xia, 白灼虾)
This is a common dish at my home table and it is loved by the whole family. The word “Bai Zhuo” in Chinese means to boil the raw food in water or soup. This is a Cantonese cooking method aimed to highlight the freshness and the original flavour of the food.
For this dish, the trick is to put a little bit of garlic and ginger slices, 1 tbs salt and 4 tbs cooking wine in the boiling water to remove the odour of the shrimps and make the meat more resilient. The wine and salt will not only make the shrimps taste better, but also make the colour of the shrimps vivid.
Don’t forget the dipping sauce which enhances the taste of shrimps. It can be just soy sauce. But try to experiment with mixing in some minced garlic, ginger and/or spring onion as well.
2. Sweet and Sour Pork (Gu Lao Rou, 咕咾肉)
You can find sweet and sour pork from fancy restaurants to street food stalls in Guangdong. In fact, you can find it in almost any Chinese restaurant in the world, which shows the influence and popularity of this dish. The main ingredients are pork tenderloin, pineapples, and sweet and sour sauce made of white rice vinegar, sugar/honey, and soy sauce. Imagine taking a bite of that deep-fried meat covered with the mouthwatering sweet and sour sauce, simply irresistible!
Want to try it out at home? Here’s a video recipe:
3. Sliced Boiled Chicken (Bai Qie Ji, 白切鸡)
A saying in Guangdong goes “there is no banquet without chicken.” Here the “chicken” means the dish sliced boiled chicken. Literally translated as “white cut chicken”, this dish is fresh, moist, tender with the true flavour of the chicken.
Chicken has to be boiled whole (gutted) in the soup, and picked out for 3-5 times during boiling process to make sure the surface temperature is the same as the inner temperature, so it can be evenly cooked. The chicken is put in the cold water after boiling to cool off, then sliced and served with dipping sauce.
This isn’t a dish we advice to make at home, because it’s time consuming and many different types of herbs are needed for in the soup. See the video below:
4. Barbecued Pork (Char Siu, 叉烧)
Char Siu means “fork roast” in Cantonese. This is a typical dish in Cantonese cuisine which commonly serves with plain white rice. Trust me, you would fall in love with it once you taste the tender, juicy and flavourful meat. Marinated pork is hung on a special skewer and barbecued in the furnace/oven with special honey sauce. The best Char Siu has a balance of fat and lean meat, bright in colour, with a slightly sweet taste.
Cha Siu is fun to make at home. Check out this video:
5. Steamed Pork Belly with Preserved Mustard Greens (Mei Cai Kou Rou, 梅菜扣肉)
This dish is definitely on top of my comfort food list. It belongs to Hakka cuisine of Guangdong area, which is a part of Cantonese cuisine. The preserved mustard greens would absorb the oil and release the unique flavour once it’s cooked with pork belly; the meat is so soft and mixed with the fragrance of the mustard greens – great combo! With thick and tasty gravy, the dish isn’t greasy as it looks and it’s really comforting. Making mei cai kou rou isn’t difficult:
6. Wet Fried Rice Noodles with Beef (Shi Chao Niu He, 湿炒牛河)
This traditional Cantonese street food is indispensable in the daily life in Guangdong. It can be breakfast, lunch or the go-to choice anytime people feel peckish. Moist beef and soft fresh rice noodles are great together! Usually the beef slices should be marinated with egg whites, soy sauce and corn starch before frying. The tip of making the beef tender is to heat the wok first then add oil in, put the beef in the wok while the oil is not yet heat up completely, then stir-fry in a fast pace.
Besides wet fried rice noodles, there’s also a dry version with beef (gan chao niu he, 牛河干炒).
7. Roasted Goose (Shao E, 烧鹅)
Roasted goose is renowned for its crispy skin and the juicy, tender meat. Before getting roasted in the furnace, the whole goose (without head, wings and guts) is blown up, sewed up, poured boiling water over then dipped in cold water, coated with special sauce. When the goose is done, it is sliced up and serves with rice and plum sauce. Tasty meat and refreshing sauce go harmoniously, absolutely hard to resist. Roasted goose is quite hard to make at home, and therefore we recommend to simply order this in a cantonese restaurant. The absolute best would be to order it when you’re travelling in Hong Kong or Guangdong province:
8. Clay Pot Rice (Bao Zai Fan, 煲仔饭)
As the name suggests, this dish comes with a clay pot with rice, and more than 20 toppings to choose from, such as pork ribs with black bean sauce, chicken with mushrooms, cured meat, etc. One clay pot rice is one meal, you don’t need any other dish. It isn’t complicated to make: put rinsed rice in the small clay pot and cook it till 70% percent done, add toppings with flavourful sauce, slow cook till it’s done. When it serves steamingly hot, you can still hear the sound of the heated sauce. To me the best part of the clay pot rice is the slightly burnt rice crust at the bottom of the pot that has absorbed the flavours of the sauce and the toppings. It’s super crispy and completely addictive.
As long as you can get yourself a clay pot, this dish is easy to make at home. It might be worthwhile to get one, as you can make many different kinds of clay pot dishes with it by experimenting with different ingredients. The cooking concept stays the same!