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Cantonese Cuisine

Cantonese Cuisine

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Published by: rahulnavet on Mar 02, 2009
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09/09/2010

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CHINESE-II
Cantonese cuisine (
粵菜
, pinyin: yue4 cai4) originates from the region around Canton insouthern China's Guangdong province.There is a Cantonese saying: "We eat everything on the ground with four legs excepttables and chairs. We eat everything in the sky except airplanes."1 Cantonese cuisineincludes almost all edible food in addition to the staples of pork, beef and chicken --snakes, snails, insects, worms, chicken feet, duck tongues, ox genitals, and entrails. Asubject of controversy amongst Westerners, dogs are raised as food in some places inChina, though this is not a common food you find in restaurants, and is illegal in HongKong.Despite the countless Cantonese cooking methods, steaming, stir frying and deep fryingare the most popular cooking methods in restaurants due to the short cooking time, and philosophy of bringing out the flavor of the freshest ingredients.Elements of CookingSpicesCantonese cuisine can be characterized by the use of very mild and simple spices incombination.Ginger, spring onion, sugar, salt, soy sauce, rice wine, corn starch and oil are sufficientfor most Cantonese cooking.Garlic is used heavily in dishes especially with internal organs that have unpleasantodors, such as entrails.Five spices powder, white pepper powder and many other spices are used in Cantonesedishes, but usually very lightly.Cantonese cuisine is sometimes considered bland by Westerners used to thicker, richer and darker sauces of other Chinese cuisines.FreshnessSpicy hot dishes are extremely rare in Cantonese cuisine.Spicy hot food is more common in very hot climates, such as those of Szechuan,Thailand, etc. where food spoils easily.Canton has the richest food resources in China in terms of agriculture and aquaculture.The copious amount of fresh food and mild weather led to Cantonese cuisine bringingout, rather than drowning out, the natural flavors.
641.5 K.Rajshekhar. November- 04. No.9(02) BSc H& HA. Page 1 of 9
 
As an example of the high standard for freshness at Cantonese meals, cows and pigs usedfor meat are usually killed earlier the same day. Chickens are often killed just hours beforehand, and fish are displayed in tanks for customers to choose for immediate preparation. It is not unusual for a waiter at a Cantonese restaurant to bring the liveflipping fish or the crawling lobster to the table to show the patron as proof of freshness before cooking.SeafoodDue to Canton's proximity to the southern coast of China, fresh live seafood is a specialtyin Cantonese cuisine.In a Cantonese's viewpoint, strong spices are added only to stale seafood to cover therotting odor.The freshest seafood is odorless, and is best cooked by steaming.For instance, only a little soy sauce, some ginger and some spring onion is added to asteamed fish.The light seasoning is used only to bring out the natural sweetness of the seafood.However, most restaurants would gladly get rid of their stale seafood inventory byoffering dishes loaded with garlic and spices.So if the waiter insists on a spicy preparation for your pick of seafood, it may mean thatit's already started to smell. Pick something else.As a rule of thumb in Cantonese dining, the spiciness of a dish is usually inversely proportional to the freshness of the ingredients.SoupAnother unique Cantonese specialty is slow cooked soup.This is almost unheard of in any other Chinese cuisines.The soup is usually a clear broth prepared by simmering meat and other ingredients for several hours.Sometimes, Chinese herbal medicines are added to the pot.The ingredients of a rather expensive Cantonese slow cooked soup are: fresh wholechicken, dried air bladder of cod fish, dried sea cucumber and dried abalone.
641.5 K.Rajshekhar. November- 04. No.9(02) BSc H& HA. Page 2 of 9
 
Another more affordable example includes pork bones, watercress with two types of almonds, etc. The combinations are varied and numerous.The main attraction is the liquid in the pot, the solids are usually thrown away unless theyare expensive ingredients like abalones or shark fins.A whole chicken may simmer in a broth for six hours or longer.The solids are usually unpalatable but the essences are all in the liquid.Traditional Cantonese families have this type of soup at least once a week.Though in this day and age, many families cannot afford this tradition due to the long preparation time required.For the same reason, not many restaurants serve this type of soup either.Even if they do, it can only be served as soupe du jour.Preserved foodThough Cantonese cooks pay much attention to the freshness of their cookingingredients, Cantonese cooking also uses a long list of preserved food items.Some items gain very intense flavors during the drying/aging/preservation/oxidation process, similar to Italian style sun-dried tomatoes' intensified flavor from drying.Some chefs combine both dried and fresh variety of the same items in a dish to create acontrast in the taste and texture.Dried items are usually soaked in water to rehydrate them before cooking, such asmushrooms.Or they are cooked with water over long hours until they are tender and juicy.For example, dried abalone and dried scallop have much stronger flavors than the freshone without the undesirable strong fishy odor. Not only do preserved foods have a longer shelf life, sometimes the dried foods are preferred over the fresh ones because of their uniquely intense flavor or texture.Some favorite dried/preserved food products include:Dried Shiitake mushroomDried abaloneDried scallopDried sea cucumber 
641.5 K.Rajshekhar. November- 04. No.9(02) BSc H& HA. Page 3 of 9

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