5 Remarkable Flavors In Cantonese

Last updated on November 16th, 2022 at 09:58 am

Fresh, natural, mild, and slightly sweet. These flavors 味 (mei6 | wei4) make Cantonese cuisine one of the best. So, today, let’s learn about Flavors in Cantonese.

If you think about your favorite Chinese food, you can’t really help but crave it. Cantonese food is undeniably one of the most popular Chinese cuisines in the whole world. With its varied cooking methods, spices, and ingredients, it is no surprise that Cantonese cuisine or Yue Cuisine has been known for its delicious food.

In this blog, you will discover the basic flavors in the Cantonese language and introduce Cantonese cuisine, some Cantonese restaurants, and Cantonese dishes. Yes, it may be hard to learn at first if you’re not a native speaker but don’t worry because you’ll be guided with English translation and Jyutping. So, shall we start?


Cantonese Cuisine (Yue Cuisine)

Before we go over the different flavors in Cantonese, let us first have a short introduction to Cantonese cuisine. Are you also wondering why it tastes so great? Here’s the reason. Because of the abundance of oil and spices, Chinese food may taste differently all around the world. In fact, Cantonese cuisine is very different from other Chinese cuisines like Western China.

The taste of Chinese food prepared in the Sichuan style differs significantly from that prepared in the Cantonese style. Cantonese cooks have a very simple approach to cooking for them; the key is to bring out the ingredients’ natural flavors. Chefs in Cantonese seek to keep the food’s natural flavor. They want to bring out the flavor of the meat, vegetable, or fruit as much as possible. The dishes are also prepared without the use of grease or other dairy products.


Cantonese Restaurants In Hong Kong

Being one of the four “Asian Tigers,” it is no surprise that Hong Kong has a diverse cuisine. You can find the Mediterranean, Japanese, French, and other types of cuisine in the world. But, if you are craving an authentic Cantonese cuisine experience, Hong Kong definitely has a lot to offer. If you happen to visit Hong Kong, especially the big cities, do not forget to visit the following Cantonese restaurants:  

Lung King Heen

Located at the Four Seasons Hotel at Sheung Wan, Lung King Heen has been serving its customers with elegant dining and breathtaking views for decades. This is also one of the world’s largest Chinese restaurants that have been awarded a three-Michelin star. If you want to go to Lung King Heen, you must try their Crispy scallops with Fresh Pear, Prawn Paste, and Yunnan Ham. They also have a variety of seafood dishes that you can order, like steamed fish.

Ser Wong Fun

Next is the Ser Wong Fun, which is considered one of the oldest Cantonese restaurants. Taste a variety of traditional cuisine. If you happen to visit this Cantonese restaurant, do not forget to try their clay pot rice which is best during the winter season.

T’ang Court

Do you want to experience dining in a luxurious royal red riding hall? Then the perfect place is the T’ang Court. It is also a three-star Michelin restaurant three-star Michelin restaurant that is famous for its authentic Cantonese flavored dishes such as Stir-fried fresh lobster and baked stuffed crab.

Tin Lung Heen

The food combined with a nice view from the 102nd floor of the tallest building in Hong Kong is absolute perfection. Tin Lung Heen is a place that can give you this vibe. This two-Michelin star restaurant offers a numerous variety of fresh seafood. It is located at the  ICC Building, Kowloon.

Spring Moon

This restaurant will give you a 1920s vibe. You can enjoy their classics and creative inventions of the menu, like the restaurant’s own famed secret XO sauce. It is located at The Peninsula, and their must-try dish for food lovers is Baked barbecued pork puff and Steamed lobster and shrimp dumplings with lobster.


Cantonese Dishes

We cannot talk about flavors in Cantonese without mentioning the different Cantonese dishes. Dishes in Cantonese cuisine ranges from deep-fried dishes, soups, seafood dishes, meat dishes, vegetable dishes, noodles dishes, siu mei dishes, lou mei, siu laap, little pot rice, banquet/dinner dishes, and of course, dessert. Of course, they also have the traditional dishes of Cantonese people that have been served for generations in Cantonese homes and restaurants like Cantonese-style fried rice, Stewed beef brisket, and Stir-fried water spinach with shredded chili and fermented tofu.

The majority of the meal is non-fattening and low in calories. In most cases, a small amount of sugar is also utilized. Therefore, foreigners may find it difficult to enjoy the special flavor of true Cantonese food since it may taste bland in comparison to the conventional Chinese food found in restaurants. Below are some of the most popular Chinese food that you can see in Chinese restaurants:

白切雞 (Baak6 Cit3 Gai1) – White Cut Chicken

A type of siu mei is white cut chicken or white sliced chicken. Unlike most others in the siu mei category, this dish is not roasted. The dish is popular in Southern China, such as Guangdong, Fujian, and Hong Kong. With a ginger-scallion dipping sauce, this boiling white-cut chicken is served. It is extremely popular in the Cantonese region due to its rich taste.

糖醋咕噜肉 (Tong4 Cou3 Gu1 Lou1 Juk6) – Sweet And Sour Pork

Sweet and sour pork is the most popular Chinese dish in the United States and many other countries. Even in American series and movies, you’ll be hearing this. Crispy pork, pineapple, peppers, and onions are combined with a sticky sweet and sour sauce to make a typical Cantonese-style Sweet and Sour Pork.

干炒牛河 (Gon1 Caau2 Ngau4 Ho4) – Beef Chow Fun

Another all-time favorite Cantonese food that has gained popularity in different parts of the world is the Beef Chow Fun or 干炒牛河 (Gon1 Caau2 Ngau4 Ho4). It is not only famous in the Guangdong Province or Hong Kong. Stir-fried beef, hor fun (wide rice noodles), and bean sprouts make up beef chow fun.

 粥 (Zuk1) – Congee

Congee is a rice porridge that is commonly eaten for breakfast or dim sum in China. It can be topped with sweet or savory ingredients, such as pork, scallions, ginger, and a thousand-year-old egg. Congee is often created by boiling rice in a large amount of water for an extended period of time.

豉汁蒸排骨 (Si6 Zap1 Zing1 Paai4 Gwat1) – Steamed Spare Ribs In Black Bean Sauce

This Cantonese meal features tender pork ribs and a rich black bean sauce that pairs well with white rice.


Cantonese Seasonings

Cantonese cuisine is rich in seasonings to add spice to their food. But, like what is said above, they bring out the natural taste of the food. Below are the common seasonings and sauces that Cantonese cooks use their food:

CantoneseJyutpingEnglish Translation
芫茜jyun4 sai1Coriander leaves
韭菜gau2 coi3Chives
八角baat3 gok3Anise
黑椒hak1 ziu1Black pepper
芝麻油zi1 maa4 jau4Sesame Oil
豉油si6 jau4Soy sauce
蠔油hou4 jau4Oyster sauce
酸梅醬syun1 mui4 zoeng3Plum sauce
海鮮醬hoi2 sin1 zoeng3Hoisin sauce
蒜蓉豆豉醬syun3 jung4 dau6 si6 zoeng3Black bean sauce
叉燒醬caa1 siu1 zoeng3Char siu sauce
柱侯醬cyu5 hau4 zoeng3Chu hau paste
滷水lou5 seoi2Master stock
浙醋zit3 cou3Red vinegar
米酒mai5 zau2Rice Wine
鹹蝦醬haam4 haa1 zoeng3Shrimp paste
糖醋醬tong4 cou3 zoeng3Sweet and sour sauce

Chinese cuisine also has a lot of dried and preserved ingredients like fermented tofu 腐乳 (fu6 jyu5), dried shrimp 蝦乾 (haa1 gon1), preserved-salted pork 臘鴨 (laap6 juk6), century egg 皮蛋 (pei4 daan2) and more. There are also a wide variety of vegetables that is mostly used as one of the main ingredients of Cantonese food.


Cooking Methods

Another factor behind the rich flavor of Cantonese food is the cooking methods. If you grab a map and take a look at the locations of Hong Kong and Guangdong Province (where Cantonese and Guangdong cuisine originated), you’ll see that they are located near the Pearl Delta River. This gives them access to a lot of fresh ingredients found in the sea. They also have a subtropical climate which is good for planting crops.

Given the geographical location mentioned above, you can tell that it’s easy for Cantonese people to get fresh ingredients in both land and water. The most preferred cooking method in Cantonese cuisine is steaming, and double steaming since it brings out the natural flavor of food. Of course, other cooking methods are also used by Cantonese chefs, such as stir-frying, deep-frying, braising sautéing, roasting, shallow frying, boiling, and even baking. One interesting thing about Cantonese chefs is they are really good at cooking in low heat.


Basic Flavors Used In Cantonese Cooking

Now that we are done discovering Cantonese cuisine, let us now go to our real deal, which is the flavors in Cantonese.

Flavors in Cantonese

Cantonese chefs place a premium on their ingredients’ quality and natural flavor. As a result, the majority of Cantonese cuisine has a light, natural flavor. Cantonese chefs are particularly careful with seasonings to preserve the main dish’s original flavor. Seasonings are used to enhance or bring out the flavor of the ingredient, not to create it. Peppers, chile, ginger, and garlic are utilized in smaller amounts. Dishes in the summer and fall are light, while those in the winter and spring are a little heavier.

甜 (Tim4) – Sweet

The sweet flavor is one of the most distinct flavors in Cantonese. This flavor usually comes from the sauces they use to mix in their meat and vegetable ingredients. One example of a Cantonese dish that has a sweet flavor is the Braised beef stew. Compared to other cuisines, the Cantonese Braised beef stew is not spicy.

酸 (Syun1) – Sour

We cannot deny the fact that the sour flavor 酸 (Syun1) is one of the most distinct flavors in Cantonese cuisine. One of the most famous Cantonese dishes that has a sour flavor is Sweet and sour pork. The real magic of this dish lies with its sauce that gives a sweet and sour taste. The ingredients of the sauce include ketchup, vinegar, salt, water, sugar, corn starch, and you can also add plum sauce.

鹹 (Haam4) – Salty

One of the most popular salty food in Cantonese cuisine is the salted fish 廣東鹹魚 (Gwong2 Dung1 Haam4 Yu2). It is a traditional Chinese food from the province of Guangdong. Salted fish is a fish that is cured or preserved with salt. In fact, this is historically hailed as the “poor man’s food, and it is also a staple food in Guangdong.

苦 (Fu2) – Bitter

The bitter flavor is also one of the most common flavors in Cantonese cuisine, not for main dishes but for medicinal food. It is believed that the bitter flavor strengthens the stomach and promotes salivation. Of course, it is also used in cooking but not to the extent that it is the only flavor. It is usually mixed with other flavors because they believe that having a slightly bitter flavor on the food makes it taste fresher and more natural.

辣 (Laat6) – Spicy

You’ll note that Cantonese cuisine has fewer spicy dishes than other cooking methods. This is due to the abundance of agricultural crops and fisheries in the Guangdong region. Because they believe that food should taste the way it was supposed to taste, you will enjoy the original taste of the cuisine.


Other Words To Describe Food In Cantonese

Now that we are done discovering the different flavors in Cantonese cuisine, let us now learn other words to describe the taste of food in the Cantonese language.

CantoneseJyutpingEnglish Translation
好味hou2 mei6delicious
好鹹hou2 haam4very salty
濃味nung4 mei6rich in flavor
生鮮saang1 sin1fresh
變壞bin3 waai6gone bad


Example Sentences

Learning just the words used to describe flavors in Cantonese is not enough. You must also learn how to use them in sentences. This way, you can use them in real-life situations, like when you’re eating in your favorite Cantonese restaurant. So, learn these sentences that include different flavors in Cantonese.

CantoneseJyutpingEnglish Translation
好 好 味。hou2 hou2 mei6。It is delicious.
我鍾意食甜嘢。ngo5 zung1 ji3 sik6 tim4 je5。I like eating sweet food.
啲 嘢 食 好 辣。di1 ye5 sik6 hou2 laat6。The food is very spicy.
檸檬好酸。ling4 mung1 hou2 syun1。Lemons are sour.
我 杯 咖 啡 好 苦。ngo5 bui1 ga3 fe1 hou2 fu2。My coffee is very bitter.
我 覺 得 啲 嘢 食 好 鹹。ngo5 gok3 dak1 di1 ye5 sik6 hou2 haam4。I think the food is very salty.
我細個唔鍾意食苦瓜。ngo5 sai3 go3 m4 zung1 ji3 sik6 fu2 gwaa1。I wouldn’t eat bitter melon when I was younger.


Spice Up Your Life. Learn Cantonese Now!

Do you want to add extra spice to your life? Why not learn beyond your native language? Did you know that a person who is learning a foreign language thinks differently than those who are not? According to research, foreign language learners open themselves to different cultures and people around the world. So after learning about the different flavors in Cantonese, the next thing you should do is to learn more. How? It’s simple. Use Ling App!

Learn Languages Ling App

Aside from flavors in Cantonese, there are a lot more topics to choose from that you can learn in a fun and exciting way. Learn vocabulary through smart flashcards with English translations, Jyutping, images, and audio recordings from a native speaker. Master the grammatical structure through grammar explanations and language tips. Most of all, you can practice what you have learned through chatting with chatbots and dialogues.

See? There’s so much to discover with Ling App. Who knows? Next time you visit a Cantonese restaurant, you might be able to order in fluent Cantonese language. So, learn Cantonese with Ling App now!

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