What Is Cantonese Food

dim sum

Cantonese food is a type of Chinese cuisine that originated from Guangdong Province and the Canton region. It is one of the Eight Culinary Traditions of Chinese cuisine. Due to the geographical location, Cantonese food features many seafood dishes. The most famous Cantonese dish is dim sum.

What is Cantonese food?

Cantonese Food

Cantonese food, or Yue cuisine, originated in the region known as Canton. Its style and techniques were then spread to other parts of Asia such as Sichuan and Shanghai, which lead to major developments influencing the evolution of modern Chinese cooking.

What are the main characteristics of Cantonese food?

Cantonese Food

Many families in Guangdong Province observe their version of Cantonese cuisine within their homes and restaurants, so what you get outside will be a variation on a theme. However, there are some common traits:

1) Boldly flavored with ingredients like soy sauce and oyster sauce

2) Freshness, with ingredients either cooked or raw

 3) Balanced yin and yang flavors

What are the distinctive styles of Cantonese food?

Cantonese cuisine:

Guangdong: The most common variant you will come across overseas is this style, which uses lots of seafood to producing robust flavors. It is sometimes referred to as “Hong Kong-style”.

Sichuan: This largely comprises fresh river fish dishes cooked with pickled red chilies and Sichuan pepper.

Fujian: Favors delicate flavors and emphasizes the use of seafood like fresh fish, scallops, and prawns. The food may often taste bland, but more liberal use of condiments such as spring onions and coriander leaves will compensate for this.

Jiangsu: A refined style that favors a balance between yin and yang elements. It is known for using freshwater fish rather than seafood.

Shandong: Often called the “healthiest” of all Chinese cuisines, it favors gentle cooking such as steaming and braising.

What are some Cantonese food specialties?

Seafood features heavily in Cantonese cuisine because Guangdong Province is surrounded by water. Its rich coastal waters provide an excellent range of seafood for use in Cantonese dishes:

Shark’s Fin Soup

This has been a popular delicacy since ancient times and symbolizes wealth since shark’s teeth are traditionally seen as “money-luck”. The soup is prepared by steeping the fins in water for hours, then adding chicken stock and other ingredients like ham. It is considered an art to produce a clear broth with no fishy smell.

Steamed Crab

This dish has two main components: 1) steamed egg white mixed with pork floss; 2) crab meat seasoned with soy sauce or fermented bean curd.. The first step of making this involves gently beating the egg whites, adding salt, and cooking wine before mixing them with chopped scallions, ginger juice, chopped coriander leaves, and pork floss. Scooping the mixture evenly into the crab shells is critical to this dish’s success.

Steamed Prawns in Supreme Broth

This dish gets its name from the thick sauce made by simmering prawn heads, scallops, pork bones, Chinese ham, and dried shrimp in chicken stock. The sauce is poured over fresh prawns before steaming them so that they are cooked through while retaining their natural sweetness.


In Cantonese food, the emphasis is on stir-frying and steaming with little oil. The staple ingredients are fresh vegetables, garlic, ginger and rice or noodles with a small amount of meat for flavor. There’s no one specific dish that typifies Cantonese cuisine; instead there are many dishes in this category. For example: chow mein (fried noodles), chop suey (stir fried mixed vegetables) and dim sum (small dumplings).

Subscribe to our monthly Newsletter
Subscribe to our monthly Newsletter