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      China's Cantonese Cuisine Article
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Regional Cuisine of China - Cantonese Cuisine

by Kirsten Hawkins

Copyright 2005

Easily the most well-known of the Chinese regional cuisines,

Cantonese cuisine comes from the region around Canton in

Southern China. Simple spices and a wide variety of foods used

in cooking characterize Cantonese cuisine. Of all the Chinese

regions, Canton (Guangdong province) has the most available

food resources. Its proximity to the sea offers a veritable

marine cornucopia to be added to its dishes, making possible

such delicate matings as Seven Happiness, a dish that includes

shrimp, scallops, fish and lobster along with chicken, beef and

pork. The light, delicate sauce, quick cooking and subtle

spicing allows the natural flavors to shine through rather than

being overwhelmed and blending together.

The spices used in Cantonese cooking tend to be light and

simple: ginger, salt, soy sauce, white pepper, spring onion and

rice wine. For many who are used to the more rich, spicy and

complex flavors of Hunan and Szechwan cooking, Cantonese

cooking may seem bland – but the subtle blends of flavor and

aroma are created by the hand of a master chef.

All Chinese cuisine takes far more into account than the flavor

of a dish. Chinese cooking is a presentation of texture, color,

shape and aroma with even the name of the dish contributing to

its overall presentation. In true Oriental fashion, a meal is

poetry, with every part of it contributing to the overall

effect. Chinese courtesy demands that a guest be treated with

honor, and to present a guest with anything less than

perfection is the height of rudeness.

As an honor to guests, freshness is one of the ultimate

‘ingredients’ in Cantonese regional cooking. In many

restaurants, guests can choose their meal from a seafood tank

in the dining room. It’s not unusual for a patron to be brought

a live fish or crab at the table as proof of the freshness of

the meal about to be prepared. Vegetables are likewise fresh,

crisp and sweet, and the quick cooking methods preserve each

flavor separately to play against the others.

Light sauces with subtle seasonings bring out the natural

sweetness of seafood – but the Cantonese chef will only use the

very freshest seafood in those dishes. For ‘stale’ seafood,

Cantonese cuisine offers thick, spicy sauces meant to mask the

characteristic odor of fish. Pungent/sweet dishes like sweet

and sour butterfly shrimp might be served this way.

There are few Cantonese desserts that are indigenous to the

region, though many restaurants serve a mango based pudding or

tapioca. Most meals are served with plain boiled rice, and

accompanied by either tea or rice wine.

Wherever in the world you are, you’re likely to find

restaurants that serve Cantonese cuisine. It has been carried

across the world by emigrants from the Quangdong province, and

its light, delicate flavors are easy on the Western palate. To

truly appreciate it though, takes more than the taste buds.

Cantonese cuisine is a treat for the eyes and the nose as much

as for the mouth. Appreciate it.

About The Author: Kirsten Hawkins is a food and nutrition

expert specializing the Mexican, Chinese, and Italian food.

Visit for more information

on cooking delicious and healthy meals.

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