How To Order Food In Cantonese: #1 Complete Guide For Diners

A photo of a pretty Asian female in a furry coat beside the order food in Cantonese texts.

Let’s set the scene. You’re in a crowded Cantonese restaurant. The air is filled with mouth-watering aromas. 

A menu lands in your hands. It’s written in Cantonese, a language as rich as the cuisine it describes. 

But you’re prepared. You’ve been learning Cantonese. Now, it’s time to shine!

Cantonese, or 廣東話 (gwong2 dung1 waa2), is a vibrant language. It’s spoken by millions, especially in Hong Kong and Guangdong, China. 

It’s a tonal language, meaning pitch changes a word’s meaning. For example, “buy” is 買 (maai5). “Sell” is 賣 (maai6). Notice the difference? 

Now, imagine using this knowledge to order your favorite dish. Perhaps it’s 蛋炒飯 (daan6 caau2 faan6), egg fried rice. 

It’s a small step, but it can transform your dining experience. So, join me as we learn how to order food in Cantonese.

Basic Phrases For Ordering Food

Alright, let’s kick things off with some basic phrases. 

When ordering food in Cantonese, a few key phrases can make the process smoother. 

These phrases are your toolkit, your starting point.

I want to order food: 我想叫食物 (ngo5 soeng2 giu3 sik6 mat6). You can use this phrase to signal your readiness to order. For example, when a waiter approaches, you can say this to indicate you’re ready to order.

Menu, please: 請給我菜單 (cing2 kap1 ngo5 coi3 daan1). This phrase is useful when you first sit down at your table. It’s a polite way to ask for the menu.

I would like…: 我想要… (ngo5 soeng2 jiu3…). This phrase is your go-to when specifying what you want to order. For example, if you want to order fried rice, you would say “我想要炒飯” (ngo5 soeng2 jiu3 caau2 faan6), which translates to “I would like fried rice.”

Do you have…?: 你有沒有…? (nei5 jau5 mut6 jau5…?). It’s handy when you’re looking for a specific dish or ingredient. For instance, if you’re craving chicken, you could ask, “你有沒有雞?” (nei5 jau5 mut6 jau5 gai1?), which means “Do you have chicken?”

I don’t eat…: 我不吃… (ngo5 bat1 hek3…). This phrase is crucial for communicating dietary restrictions. If you’re vegetarian, for example, you could say “我不吃肉” (ngo5 bat1 hek3 juk6), which translates to “I don’t eat meat.”

A female customer inside a Chinese restaurant asking waiters how to order food in Cantonese.

Navigating A Chinese Restaurant

Stepping into a Chinese restaurant is like entering a new world. 

The sights, sounds, and smells are all part of the experience. 

But the heart of it all? The menu!

It’s your guide to the culinary delights that await. 

But navigating a Chinese menu can be tricky, especially if you’re new to Cantonese.

Understanding A Chinese Menu

First, let’s talk about common Cantonese food items. 

In Chinese restaurants, you’ll likely see dishes like 炒飯 (caau2 faan6), or fried rice, and 雞 (gai1), or chicken. 

You might also come across 魚 (jyu4), meaning fish, and 蔬菜 (so1 coi3), or vegetables. 

Knowing these terms can help you spot familiar dishes on the menu. 

And when you’re ready to order, you can say “我想要…” (ngo5 soeng2 jiu3…) or “I want…”, followed by the dish you want.

Special Dietary Needs And Preferences

If you have any allergies, it’s important to communicate them clearly. 

For example, if you’re allergic to peanuts, you’d say “我對花生過敏” (ngo5 deoi3 faa1 sang1 gwo3 man6), which means “I’m allergic to peanuts.” 

And if you prefer your food less spicy, you can say “我想要少辣” (ngo5 soeng2 jiu3 siu2 laat6), which translates to “I would like it less spicy.” 

Now, let’s talk about cooking styles. 

Cantonese cuisine is known for its variety of cooking methods.

If you want something cooked in a specific style, like the Typhoon Shelter style (a popular method of cooking seafood in Hong Kong), you can say “我想要避風塘炒…” (ngo5 soeng2 jiu3 bei6 fung1 tong4 caau2…), followed by the dish you want. 

For example, “我想要避風塘炒蟹” (ngo5 soeng2 jiu3 bei6 fung1 tong4 caau2 haai5) means “I would like Typhoon Shelter style crab.”

A photo of a foreigner ordering food at a Chinese restaurant and wanting to pay separately for the drinks.

Essential Food Vocabulary In Cantonese

When you order food in Cantonese, know that vocabulary is your best friend. 

Learning the right words can turn a confusing menu into a culinary roadmap.

Common Cantonese Food Terms

  • Soup – 湯 (tong1): A typical starter for meals. If you want to order soup, you can say “我想要湯” (ngo5 soeng2 jiu3 tong1), which translates to “I would like soup.”
  • Fish – 魚 (jyu4): A staple in many Cantonese dishes. To order a fish dish, you might say “我想要魚” (ngo5 soeng2 jiu3 jyu4), meaning “I would like fish.”
  • Noodles – 麵 (min6): A common ingredient in many dishes. If you’re craving noodles, you can say “我想要麵” (ngo5 soeng2 jiu3 min6), which translates to “I would like noodles.”
  • Beer – 啤酒 (be1 zau2): A popular beverage. To order a beer, you can say “我想要啤酒” (ngo5 soeng2 jiu3 be1 zau2), which means “I would like a beer.”

Local Dishes And Delicacies

  • Wonton Noodles 雲吞麵 (wan4 tan1 min6): This popular dish features delicate dumplings filled with shrimp or pork, served in a savory broth with noodles. To order this dish, you can say “我想要雲吞麵” (ngo5 soeng2 jiu3 wan4 tan1 min6) or “I would like wonton noodles.”
  • Roast Goose 燒鵝 (siu1 ngo4): This classic Cantonese specialty features a whole goose that’s been marinated and roasted to achieve crispy skin and tender, flavorful meat. You can order it by saying “我想要燒鵝” (ngo5 soeng2 jiu3 siu1 ngo4). This translates to “I would like a roast goose.”
  • Dim Sum 點心 (dim2 sam1): Dim sum refers to a variety of bite-sized dishes traditionally served in small steamer baskets or on small plates. To order dim sum, you can say “我想要點心” (ngo5 soeng2 jiu3 dim2 sam1), which translates to “I would like dim sum.”
  • Char Siu 叉燒 (caa1 siu1): This is a common way to add flavor to barbecued pork in Cantonese cuisine. To order char siu, you can say “我想要叉燒” (ngo5 soeng2 jiu3 caa1 siu1), which means “I would like char siu.”
  • Har Gow 蝦餃 (haa1 gaau2): These are shrimp dumplings, a classic dim sum dish. To order har gow, you can say “我想要蝦餃” (ngo5 soeng2 jiu3 haa1 gaau2), which translates to “I would like shrimp dumplings.”
  • Siu Mai 燒賣 (siu1 maai6): These are steamed dumplings, usually filled with pork and shrimp. To order siu mai, you can say “我想要燒賣” (ngo5 soeng2 jiu3 siu1 maai6), which means “I would like siu mai.”
A waiter serving food to his female customer inside a restaurant in Hong Kong.

Politeness And Cultural Etiquette In Cantonese Dining

Dining in Chinese culture is more than just a meal. It’s a social event steeped in tradition and etiquette. 

Politeness is vital, and the correct phrases can make all the difference.

Polite Phrases And Cultural Norms

Polite phrases and cultural norms are the backbones of any dining experience. 

Saying “please” and “thank you” goes a long way. 

In Cantonese, “please” is 請 (cing2), and “thank you” is 多謝 (do1 ze6) or 唔該 (m4 goi1). 

Use these phrases generously when ordering food. 

For example, “請給我炒飯,多謝” (cing2 kap1 ngo5 caau2 faan6, do1 ze6) means “Please give me fried rice, thank you.” 

It’s a simple way to show respect and gratitude.

Understanding The Concept Of ‘Face’ In Chinese Dining

Now, let’s talk about ‘face’ or ‘面子’ (min6 zi2).

It’s a complex concept in Chinese and other Asian cultures, tied to respect, reputation, and social standing. 

In the context of dining, ‘face’ can influence how you order food. 

For instance, ordering various dishes to share can show generosity, giving you ‘face.’ 

On the other hand, being mindful of waste and not ordering excessively can also preserve ‘face.’ 

It’s a delicate balance, but understanding this concept can enrich your dining experience.

A photo of a satisfied couple happy with their dining experience in a Chinese eatery in China.

Practical Tips For Ordering Food In Cantonese

Ordering food in Cantonese is a skill.

And like any skill, it comes with its own tips and tricks.

Numbers And Quantities

Numbers and quantities in Cantonese are essential for specifying your order. 

In Cantonese, “one” is 一 (jat1), “two” is 二 (ji6), and “three” is 三 (saam1). 

So, if you want to order one bowl of rice, you’d say “我想要一碗飯” (ngo5 soeng2 jiu3 jat1 wun2 faan6), which translates to “I would like one bowl of rice.” 

If you want two bowls of rice, you’d say “我想要二碗飯” (ngo5 soeng2 jiu3 ji6 wun2 faan6), which means “I would like two bowls of rice.”

Asking For Recommendations And Understanding Responses

As for asking for recommendations, a simple “What do you recommend?” translates to “你推薦咩?” (nei5 teoi1 zin3 me1?). 

For example, if you’re at a dim sum restaurant and want to try something new, you could ask the waiter, “你推薦咩?” (nei5 teoi1 zin3 me1?). 

They might respond with “推薦鳳爪” (teoi1 zin3 fung6 zaau2), which means “recommend chicken feet,” a popular dim sum dish. 

If you’re unsure about the dish, you can ask, “鳳爪係咩?” (fung6 zaau2 hai6 me1?), which means “What is chicken feet?”

Useful Vocabulary When Ordering Food In Cantonese

Understanding Chinese menus can be a delightful challenge, and having a robust vocabulary is your secret weapon. 

Let’s equip you with some useful Cantonese words and phrases to make your food-ordering experience smoother.

EnglishCantonesePronunciationSound
Bread麵包Min6 baau1
Coffee咖啡Gaa1 fe1
EggDaan6
Fish balls魚蛋Jyu4 daan6
More food多啲食物Do1 di1 sik6 mat6
Orange juice橙汁Caang2 zap1
Pepper胡椒Wu4 ziu1
SaltJim4
Signature dish招牌菜Ziu1 paai4 coi3
SpicyLaat6
SugarTong4
TeaCaa4
WaterSeoi2
Waiter侍應Si6 ying6
What’s this?這係咩?Ze2 hai6 me1?

Remember, language is a powerful tool. 

The more words you know, the more dishes you can explore. 

So, keep practicing, keep learning, and most importantly, enjoy the delicious journey of Cantonese cuisine.

Learn How To Order Food In Cantonese With Ling!

In Cantonese cuisine, ordering food goes beyond satisfying your hunger. 

It’s an immersive experience that connects you to the culture and flavors of the region. 

By learning how to order food in Cantonese, you open the door to a world of culinary delights. 

So, why stop here? 

Take your language learning further with the Ling app

With this app, you can learn Cantonese and over 60 other languages. 

Whether you’re a language learner, a traveler, or simply curious about different cultures, the Ling app is your companion on this linguistic adventure. 

Download the Ling app from Google Play and App Store now!

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