If your takeout order always consists of Egg Foo Young, Lo Main and Chop Suey, or you’re absolutely addicted to Dim Sum, chances are you’ll love Cantonese cuisine.
Mother of American Chinese takeouts, Cantonese cuisine is famous for its bold ingredients and western influences. A quick tour at any eatery in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, you’ll find localized Portuguese egg tarts, ham sandwiches and Wonton on the same menu, and if you walk into a big restaurant, the first thing you’ll see is tanks after tanks of live seafood, birds and wild animals.
Guangdong province and Hong Kong locate on the South China Sea coast. Historically, these two places are where China connects with the rest of the world—they’re the largest importer and exporter of goods in China, and the largest source of Chinese immigrants to the world.
The impact of being the connector between China and the rest of the world is the fusion of all kinds of culinary influences. Cantonese are the first to localize and incorporate the concept of baking, and develop its own baking style. They’re also the first to use fish sauce, ketchup and mayo in its cooking. American’s favorite orange chicken is copied off of the Pineapple Sweet & Sour Pork, which is deep fried pork chunks coated with a ketchup vinegar sauce and stir-fried with canned pineapples.
The perception of Cantonese people eat almost everything began as early as 139 B.C.. In the book HuaiNanZi, it documented that “Cantonese regards snakes as delicacies.” Yet even to date, the majority of China still can’t get close to snakes. As a classic proverb jokingly describes, “no matter if it flies, walks or flies, as long as it’s alive, the Cantonese people will eat it.” Some classic cantonese dishes in this regards are deep fried pigeons, steamed chicken feet in fermented black bean sauce, steamed wild grouper with fish sauce etc.
In 1870s, the first wave of Chinese immigrants departed from Guangdong and arrived in California. Their mission was to help Americans build railroads. Most of them later stayed, and in order to make a living, they modified their food and invented the American Chinese food we know of today.