The Cantonese style of cooking is probably the most familiar to the western palate, for the greater number of Chinese restaurant established outside China are of this style. The name for this school of cuisine comes from the old name for the southern city now known as Guangzhou. Features of this style are the variety of dishes and the beauty of their presentation. Steam and water are used in preparation more than frying, and the great abundance of fresh vegetables in the region are cooked for the shortest time possible to maintain their natural crispness. The dishes have a slight tendency to be sweet and spices are used with moderation.
The banquet usually begins with a cold plate made up of a variety of meat and vegetables in the form of an animal such as a peacock, phoenix, butterfly, or fish. Not only are different foods used for color effect; they are positioned according to the texture they give to the visual form. To appreciate the artistry of the dish it is worthwhile standing up after it is placed on the table in older to se it in better perspective. Photographers delight in the subject matter. When you comprise a variety of foodstuff such as chopped liver, minced quail eggs, smoke-cured ham, prawn slices wrapped in translucent rice flour, cold wine chicken slices, to name but a few.
Main dishes are roasted goose, fresh straw mushrooms bathed in a sauce of white shredded crameat, large prawns sauteed in ginger and seallion sauce, rice birds served on a bed of green vegetables, chicken slices with sharksfin(a most elegant and sought-after rarity), winter-melon soup, beef cooked in oyster sauce,boned fish, turtle, ell, and white chicken. There are also many dishes based on snakes, baby seal, dog, cat, and the famous but now very rare delicacy, bear’s paws.
Desserts on the menu usually comprise four or five different sweet cakes made individually from such materials as water chestnut jelly, walnut cream, and almond cream-all served either hot or cold. Fresh fruits usually follow the desserts.
Typical of Cantonese cooking is the dim sum which is generally served for lunch. This course consists of a variety of little dumplings and meats chosen by the guests from a cart brought to the table; there are roast pork buns, shrimp t oasts, chopped pork Formed into flowers, spring rolls, little ribs in black-bean sauce, watercress, and steamed beef balls, to name a few.
As Guangzhou is in the south of China in a high rainfall crop area it is not surprising that white rice is the usual accompaniment to the meal.