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Dining Out in Guangzhou

There would be a few visitors to China unfamiliar with food cooked Cantonese-style, simply because the large proportion of Chinese restaurants established around the world serve food that is Cantonese, or strongly influenced by his school of cooking. Visitors thus have the chance to eat at the home of Cantonese cuisine-Guangzhou–and compare indigenous Cantonese cooking with that they know at home.

You with note that we used the words “Canton” and “Cantonese” in this section. There have been adopted because they have become internationally accepted in relation to Chinese cuisine. And the word “Canton,” despite its association in the Chinese mind with foreign exploitation and national humiliation, can be freely used in China. although when speaking of subjects other than cooking it is probably more polite to use the name “Guangzhou “. During your visit to China you will also be in a position to compare the food prepared in the two great gastronomic centers of file nation: Guangzhou and Beijing.

Dining out in Guangzhou is altogether different from dining out in Beijing. For one thing, the style of cooking is different; For another, the setting and decor of some of the restaurants in Guangzhou are magnificent, in contrast to the austerity of Beijing’s restaurants.

The description of the dishes is more poetic in Guangzhou How could anyone be more subtle than a chef who describes a dish as “Dragon and Tiger” when he is referring to snake and civet cat? Or “Snake Crossing the Mountain Peaks” for a soup containing meat from the boa constrictor? Or “Fragrant Meat” when referring to dog?

Such dishes are exceptions, not in the mainstream of Cantonese cooking; but the poetry extends to dishes which will find favor with the Western visitor’s palate. For example, “A Hundred Flowers Floating on the Lake” is a consomme in which poached quail eggs, decorated to resemble flowers, float on the surface: “Jade Trees” are green vegetables. Another notable difference is the emphasis given to the appearance of the food. This is nowhere more noticeable than in the presentation of cold hors d’oeuvres, where the foodstuffs will be arranged to form a bird, butterfly, or flower. They will be distributed to provide not only an appropriate color but the right textural appearance as well. Stand up and take a good look at this when it is served. You will often feel it is too attractive to break up for serving.

Keep your eyes open when the other dishes are served. You will often notice the decorative touch that has been deftly applied; a fine example is the filigree carving on the top of the melon used as the bowl in presenting the famous winter-melon soup. There is a host of other examples.

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