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Cantonese Cuisine: A Potted History

All you need to know about China’s biggest culinary export

Being the first group of Chinese immigrants to settle in London’s Chinatown, it’s no surprise the Cantonese brought with them their culinary secrets and traditions. In fact, it’s the Cantonese style of cooking that underpins what we’ve come to know and love as Chinese food. Your beloved sweet and sour pork? Cantonese. Crispy roast duck? Cantonese. Lobster with ginger? You get the idea…

chinatown london-cantonese cuisine

Cantonese cuisine is about subtlety: uncomplicated flavours, which let the freshness of the ingredients do the talking.

Hailing from the province of Guandong (formerly Canton) in southern China, the cuisine unites dishes and styles from its cities of Guangzhou, Chaoshan and Shunde. While Sichuan cuisine is all about the heat, Cantonese is about subtlety: uncomplicated flavours, which let the freshness of the ingredients do the talking.

The preferred way to cook seafood is to steam or shallow fry, adding small amount of mild yet flavour-boosting accompaniments like soybean, ginger, spring onion, oyster or plum sauce to enhance the of meat and seafood dishes.

chinatown london-four season cantonese grilled lobster

Four Season, next to its little brother “Little Four Season” on Gerrard Street, gives traditional Cantonese grilled lobster a bit of “cheesy” touch.

If you’re watching your waistline but still fancy a spot of Chinese, Cantonese is the way to go. Unlike many of it regional counterparts, the cuisine’s dishes aren’t laden with oil or heavy fats. To sample authentic Cantonese-style lobster, make a beeline for Chinatown’s Little Four Seasons and try their ginger and spring onion lobster. Healthy and delicious.

chinatown london-little four seasons' ginger and spring onion lobster

Little Four Seasons’ ginger and spring onion lobster is both delicious and healthy.

Pork, poultry and beef feature regularly in Cantonese cuisine (think: spare ribs with black beans or crispy fried chicken), as well as nose-to-tail cuts such as chicken feet, fish lips and sliced offal. This has its roots party due to economic need and also from the philosophy that once killed, no part of the animal should go to waste.Being coastal, Guangdong is abundant in not only seafood like lobster, scallops and shrimps, but imported ingredients thanks to its capital’s trading port history.

As part of the last part of the Columbian Exchange in the 16th century, Spanish and Portuguese traders began introducing foods from the New World to China via Canton’s port.

chinatown london-cheung fun

With the savoury pork belly and the rice wrapping, cheung fun (or rice noodle roll) will surely take you over the moon.

From a southern corner of China to dinner tables across the world: our love affair with Cantonese cuisine is an enduring one.

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