Cantonese cuisine (Yuecai) is what defines food in Guangzhou, one of eight divisions of Chinese cuisine. It is characterized by its rich fragrance, color, presentation and taste. Seasonings are used sparingly, and compared with other Chinese dishes, Cantonese food use less thick spicy dressings so the original taste of the food stands out. Fresh herbs are used sparingly, and the manner of cooking mainly involves stir frying and steaming.
There is an adage in Guangdong that states “Except the plane and the stool, Guangzhou people eat everything in the sky and on the earth.” From this famous saying you will have a clear idea about what to eat once you reach Guangzhou—an adventure in gastronomy awaits. As the epicenter of all Cantonese food all over the world, you will find authentic Cantonese food in the city.
Guangzhou is reputed to host the most number of restaurants and tea houses in all of China, with some estimates saying the city has more than 10,000 restaurants. They serve roast suckling pig (Kao Ru Zhu), taiye chicken (Taiye Ji), and crystal chicken (a yellow and bright color dish, with tender meat, delicious juice and excellent smells). If you are on a gastronomic adventure, stewed wild dog meat and dragon fighting against the tiger (Long Hu Dou, which is stewed snake and wild cat) will surely awaken your palate. Other well known dishes around are jidi zhou, chang fen, yuntun mian, shuang pi nai, and guiling gao.
If you want the huge crowds while having dinner, head to Da Tong Jiujia (63 Yanjiang Lu +86 20 8188 5933). Housed in an old building, this is a huge eatery that spans all eight floors. The restaurant has been operating for a long time and has a lot of local patrons.
For a sumptuous meal of wenchang chicken, shrimp dumpling, durian crisp cake, and boiled chicken, make your way to Guangzhou Jiujia (2 Wenchang Road, +86 20 8188 8388). This place is a family-owned restaurant and has several branches all over the city.
Standard Cantonese cuisine using fresh ingredients is what Four Seasons Restaurant (122 Liuhua Road, +86 20 8666 6888) offers. This place is famous for its roasted suckling pig and the veritable Peking duck. If you want to take a peek at the kitchens of old Canton, then Food Street Restaurant (122 Liuhua Rd +86 20 6258 2582) Try their famous fisherman’s congee, dim sum, wonton noodles and other servings of regional and local cuisine.
For a garden-style restaurant, head to Pan Xi Jiujia (151 Longjin Road, +86 20 8181 5718). This eatery offers a lot of dim sum types, all 1,000 of them. With its more than 12,000 square meters of property situated on the banks of Li Wan Lake and with an imperial garden nearby, this restaurant offers a polished and stylish dining experience which earned it the highest rank of all garden restaurants in all of Guangzhou.
Another garden restaurant is Nan Yuan Jiujia (142 Qianjin Road, +86 20 8444 9211). Sample their bean paste chicken, bamboo cream chicken, brined vegetable pork steak soup, stewed wild goose, sliced beef, and the curious Buddha jumping over the wall (a type of shark fin soup). Take the last dish with caution as it is said to be the cause of the depletion of shark population.
Try the famous Cantonese pastries well known for their wide range of varieties, delicate flavours and different hues. Nanxin Milk Store on Xia Jiu Lu specializes on shuang pi nai or double-skin milk. This is a desert that has milk simmered first with a frozen cover from a combination of milk and egg white. It is white and semisolid with a sweet taste and soft texture. Chang fen or steamed vermicelli roll is a popular snack among locals. It is served in every nightmarkets and tea houses.
Tea drinking is really huge in Guangzhou. Especially at mornings, tea houses fill up with patrons even before 11AM. You may sample herbal tea, in particular order wang laoji herbal tea to help you cleanse your body from all the toxins you get while travelling. If you are into tea ceremony, have a sip of gongfu cha, because this tea requires ample attention in the preparation—from the teapot, to the tea leaves, to the quality of water and the procedure, and even the pouring and drinking of the tea.
If you’d rather consign yourself to the conventions of western cuisine, Guangzhou is a huge city and there’s still plenty of spots to make you feel at home. Pizzerias, Western cuisine, Southeast Asian, Japanese and even African and Islamic food abound in the city, not to mention your usual guilty pleasures from fastfood chains. Familiar convenience stores such as 7-11 and supermarkets such as Carrefour and well-known Chinese and Hong Kong chains are scattered all around the city.