Having lived in Guangzhou (Canton) for almost 20 years since born, I recently went back to my hometown last Christmas when I went Yumcha almost every morning.
Canton, as you might have heard, is known as the ‘Food Heaven’ in China. As your local food expert, here’s a snapshot of some of the most delicious Cantonese food I’ve had during my trip in Guangzhou this time – that you might want to try for your next visit to Guangzhou, Hong Kong or your local Chinatown 🙂
This Cantonese staple is made with ground pork, chopped prawns/shrimp and sometimes Shiitake mushrooms, wrapped by a thin dough wrapper, topped off with a little crab roe on top, giving the bright orange colour in the centre, or more Shiitake mushrooms. It is simply the best way to start Yumcha!
Lo Mai Gai 糯米雞
This dish is made from glutinous rice, with it’s centre filled with a mixture of chicken, Shiitake mushrooms and Chinese sausage (lap ceung 臘腸). You sometimes also see dried prawns/shrimp and salted egg yolks add as well. This is all then wrapped inside a lotus leaf and then steamed.
Phoenix Claws 鳳爪
A very well known Cantonese dish – the ultimate chicken feet! These are first deep fried, giving it’s distinctive wrinkly look, and then steamed with fermented black soybeans and chilli (and sometimes, abalone stock!). The trick is to eat only the skin for it’s delicious gelatin texture and flavour.
Lai Fun 瀨粉
A short and thick type of Chinese noodles, these are made from rice flour and some tapioca starch, topped off with small dried shrimp and Shiitake mushrooms in a nice meaty broth.
Steamed Rice Noodles 腸粉
These rice noodles are actually made fresh, with the chef using a rice flour batter over a hot plate to quickly make fresh noodles on the spot. These are then rolled up and served either plain, or with fillings including prawns, beef, dough sticks/fritter, and barbecued pork. The locals eat this with accompanied with congee:
Rice Porridge 粥
Rice porridge, or congee, is a simple porridge made from rice, and depending on the locale, is served plain with side dishes, or is prepared with meat or fish, adding it’s flavour to the congee. It goes really well with the aforementioned rice noodles above 🙂
Tofu Skin Roll 腐皮卷
This roll is made with a tofu skin wrapping, filled with a mix of ground pork, bamboo shoots and Shiitake mushrooms. The traditional yumcha version is steamed, although more restaurants are serving a fried version, like the one below!
Turnip Cake 蘿蔔糕
Somewhat misleading, this is actually made with shredded white radish and rice flour, mixed with bits of dried shrimp, Chinese sausage and mushroom, steamed, cut into squares and pan-fried, giving it a crunchy outside, but soft, gooey inside. It’s my grandma’s favourite cake to make, especially for Chinese New Year.
Water Chestnut Cake 馬蹄糕
This is a unique sweet Cantonese dim sum, made with water chestnuts (which are deliciously crunchy), and occasionally quickly fried to give it a nice crispy texture. My dad’s all time favourite!
Put Chai Ko 砵仔糕
This small pudding is made using a mixture of rice flour, sugar, cornflour and red bean paste (although this is for the traditional version, there are a lot of variations as you can see below!), and then steamed to be eaten.
When I was little, my grandma used to buy me a few of these every time we went to the church as we always went pass that little shop that made great pudding cakes.
Roast Meats / Siu Mei 燒味
Cantonese cuisine has a variety of roasted meats, including pork, duck, goose, chicken and sometimes pigeon. The meat is normally seasoned with a variety of spices (including the all magical 5 spice powder) before roasting. Very popular in Hong Kong and Macau, and even in Sydney! Varieties I’ve tried in Canton this time:
- Roast Goose 燒鵝
- Roast Pork 燒肉
- Roast Pigeon 乳鴿
- Soy Sauce Chicken 豉油雞
Chinese Sausage 臘味
Chinese sausage (lap ceung) is a dried (giving it a very distinctive wrinkly appearance) hard sausage made from pork and lard (although there are a lot more low-fat options in shops now). When they make the sausage, it is sweetened a little, giving a very distinctive salty, fatty flavour, yet slightly sweet, making it perfect for a lot of Cantonese dishes. Famous Chinese Sausage brands in Canton are: 八百載 秋之風 & 滄州棧
Claypot Rice 煲仔飯
Although this is more of a dinner dish, this famous Cantonese dish is made by filling up a clay pot with rice at the bottom, and a variety of ingredients (with the traditional dish containing chicken and Chinese sausage) layered on top of it, and then cooked on a stove at high heat (the traditional way is using a charcoal stove). Once on the stove, it’s cooked and then served direct, no mixing, so when it arrived at our table, it was piping hot! Make sure to mix the rice through so it doesn’t stick to the edges and burns!
Black Sesame Soup 芝麻糊
This is a really popular Cantonese sweet soup, or “Tong Sui (糖水)”, with the other being red bean soup. Served hot, this is perfect to wrap up a meal, or to warm you up on a cold winter day.
Egg Tart 蛋撻
A staple during yum cha, the egg tarts are simply a mixture of a sweet egg custard, surrounded by deliciously flaky pastry and then baked. So simple, yet so delicious.
Century Egg Pastry 皮蛋酥
Century egg pasties are a mix of lotus paste, and Century egg (a preserved egg that also goes really well with Congee). I had both of them during Yumcha one day, don’t be too jealous!
Cantonese Milk 香滿樓 燕塘 風行牛奶
If you want to try some milk produced in Canton, these are the top brands I recommend that I have been drinking since I was a kid. They all taste a little bit different to the milk we have in Australia, New Zealand and other countries so it’s worth trying!
Ice Cream 五羊牌雪糕
One of the oldest and most famous ice cream brand in Canton that brings back some childhood memories for me. Not the best ice cream I’ve had but also worth trying if you want another taste of Canton!
Last but not least, here are some of the best Yum Cha restaurants I recommend:
My favourite – The Garden Hotel 花園酒店
Restaurants with the best environment
- BeiYuan Cuisine 北園酒家
- Panxi Restaurant 泮溪酒家
Most authentic / with oldest history
- Guangzhou Restaurant 廣州酒家
- LianXiang Restaurant 蓮香樓
That’s it for now but if you are planning your next trip to Guangzhou / HK / Yumcha, you know who to go ask! Post your questions / comments below and I’ll get back to you!