Okay, here's my contribution to Cantonese cuisine (广东菜系 - 粤菜) (me being part Cantonese from the maternal side
). Cantonese cuisine is oft equated to HK cuisine, but actually it's the other way round - HK cuisine is a subset of Cantonese cuisine
.Characteristics of the food (applicable to different dishes):
(1) 清淡 Delicate/Bland
- Uses few seasonings and spices in order to preserve the natural flavours of the ingredients. Most of the time, only a few of the following additives would suffice - Ginger (姜), Scallion (葱), Sugar (糖), Salt (盐), Soy Sauce (酱油), Rice Wine (米酒), Starch (淀粉), and Cooking Oil (油).
Only in cooking the gizzards would Garlic (大蒜) be used. The Five Spices Powder (五香粉) and White Pepper Powder (白胡椒粉) are used, but seldom.
To those who are used to other Chinese cuisines, authentic Cantonese cuisine can be bland in comparison.
(2) 香脆 Cripsy
(3) 偏甜 Sweet
(4) 鲜味 Freshness
- As mentioned by yehzhaofeng, the beef and pork usually come from cattle and hogs slaughtered the same day. Poultry comes from chicken, duck and geese killed just a few hours before. Fish, prawns and crab are kept alive in aquarium tanks in restaurants, sometimes shown to the customer just before cooking. Caveat to non-Cantonese - Don't try to impress Cantonese by bringing them to seafood restaurants! To Cantonese, the seasonings etc. used in a seafood dish are inversely proportional to the freshness of the seafood, and they don't like it. Chilly crabs from Singapore don't appeal.
Having said that, it must be pointed out that Cantonese also use a large amount of preserved (dried) foodstuff (乾貨) such as mushrooms (冬菇), scallops (瑤柱/干貝), sea-cucumbers (海參), dried shrimps (蝦米), "waxed" meat (臘肉/鴨), salted fish (鹹魚), century egg (皮蛋) and salted egg (鹹蛋) etc. However, these are complements rather than substitutes for fresh ingredients.Cooking Techniques:
(1) 煎 jiān
(2) 烘 hōng
(3) 烤 kăo
(4) 煲 bāo
Boiling in a claypot
(5) 烩 huì
Frying, then braising with cornflour paste.Major Centres:
(1) 广州 GuăngZhōu
(2) 潮州 CháoZhōu (usually recognised as a regional cuisine on its own)
(3) 东江 DōngJiāng - Eastern tributary of Pearl River in southern China, including Dongguan (東莞), Huizhou (惠州) and Heyuan (河源). It is the main source of fresh water of HK.
Other well-known characteristics of Cantonese cuisine is its use of exotic animals such as snakes, monkeys, cats, mouse and pangolin.
The dish 龙虎斗/龍虎鬥 LóngHŭDòu
or literally Dragon-Tiger-Duel uses the meat from the snake and the leopard cat.
Many Cantonese dishes are cooked quickly to preserve the freshness of the ingredients and the natural flavours.
However, the hectic stressful living in HK also saw development of particular dishes to reinvigorate those who with long working hours or nocturnal activities - through porridges boiled for a long time, supposedly to reduce their heatiness
.Last but not least, sometimes, it helps a non-Cantonese Chinese customers to get better treatment in Cantonese eateries if they can fake a convincing Cantonese/HK accent.