The Food in Canton (South)

The southern province of Canton, with its mild, semi-tropical climate, grows an abundance of produce all year round: rice,fruit and vegetables enjoy four seasons, while plentiful feed for livestock means that high-quality meat and poultry is abundant. And the long coastline gives access to the rice fishing grounds of the South China Sea with their enormous variety of fish and seafood. No wonder that for centuries the Cantonese have been noted for their sophisticated cuisine, and their keen interest in food. In Canton, people greet each by saying 'Have you eaten? '- literally 'Have you had rice? 'i- as we would say 'Good morning 'or 'How are you? '

Of all the regional styles, Cantonese is the best known in the west, largely because the first Chinese to emigrate in large numbers in 19th century came from this region. Because their food is of such superlative quality, the Cantonese are connoisseurs of flavour and taste. They prefer cooking methods such as steaming or poaching, which preserve the natural flavours and colours. Steamed scallops with black beansauce, for example, is a delicious speciality. The Cantonese have also developed a cooking method called Cha Siu which can be translated as 'barbecue roasting'. This involves marinating meat, especially pork, for some time and then roasting it quickly in a very hot oven.

As so much of the province lies on the coast, seafood plays an important part in the cuisine of Southern China. Prawns, shrimps, scallops, lobster and crab are in plentiful supply - they are stir-fried or steamed, usually with ginger and onion to offset their 'fishiness'.Seafood flavours are also frequently used in meat dishes - giving the food a distinctive savoury quality. Oyster sauce, shrimp sauce and shrimp paste are widely used - beef with oyster sauce is a favoirite dish.

In this lush climate fresh vegetables are in abundance and are used extensively. Cantonese cooking specialises in the quick stir-frying of vegetables, which helps to retain colour, flavour and nutrients. Spinach, cabbage, peppers, broccoli and dried mushrooms are widely used. Fruit is also abundant, and so it is perhaps natural that fruit is often combined in dishes with meat or poultry.

<>   Last Modified by Xiaoniu SuChu Hsu (p) in May 1998