Photo: Pavel L Photo and Video/Shutterstock
When you first travel to a new place, the sights, smells, and sounds are often so new that there’s no question you are somewhere you’ve never been before. Traffic and language sound different. The lights, colors, architecture, cars, and clothing are all worthy of increased attention. The smell of the air itself can even indicate that you’ve arrived somewhere foreign and different.
While these senses all combine to highlight the new wonders that await you, it’s often, of course, when you sit down to a meal in a brand-new place that you truly discover the un-nameable heart and soul of wherever you are. Nowhere is this truer than in Guangzhou, China, the home to world-famous Cantonese food in Guangdong province. Cantonese cuisine is so popular that you can get it almost anywhere these days, but eating it in Guangzhou is an experience unto itself. Here is what and where you should eat if you ever find yourself in Guangzhou.
1. Dim Sum
Dim sum is the most well-known Cantonese dish around the world, and it’s not hard to see why. A straightforward dish generally composed of steamed or fried dumplings, it’s served as a snack or main course in small steamer baskets or on little plates. A staple of Cantonese food that stretches back thousands of years, the varieties of available dim sum are too many to list, and the dish is so ubiquitous that the simple act of “drinking tea” always includes it. (Hong Kong, of course, is also famed for its dim sum.)
2. Shuang Pi Nai
A creamy custard, shuang pi nai is a simple and satisfying sweet dish that calls to mind pudding or flan. Made from water buffalo milk, sugar, and egg whites, this dish is also sometimes topped with lotus seeds, raisins, or jequirity, a popular red bean.
Photo: Daniel Fung/Shutterstock
3. Kao Ru Zhu
Roasted whole suckling pig has been a delicacy here for more than 1,400 years. Whether it’s cooked over a low fire to preserve the skin’s smoothness or roasted over a large fire so the skin melts, kao ru zhu is a treasured part of Cantonese cuisine and culture that is one of Guangzhou’s most prized offerings.
4. Yum Cha
Yum cha is a Cantonese-style morning or afternoon tea that includes the eating of dim sum and other baked goods. When you’re in Guangzhou, be sure to make it a point to stop in at the local tea houses regularly for yum cha. Reminiscent of British tea, it serves the same purpose and will, therefore, help ensure you can keep your energy up throughout a day filled with sightseeing.
5. Long Hu Dou
Not for the faint of heart, long hu dou, which translates to “dragon fighting against the tiger,” is a famous Cantonese dish made from snake and wild cat. Difficult to find outside China, Guangzhou’s restaurants make the best long hu dou on the planet.
Where to Eat:
The Food Streets: Guangzhou’s cuisine is its own reason to travel to China, and like many cities throughout the world, it has a few famous food streets where the vendors and restaurants all offer tremendous fare. The most famous food street in Guangzhou is Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street; its morning teas and lunches are popular with locals and tourists alike. While you must certainly try the dim sum there, also be on the lookout for vendors and restaurants selling fresh lobster sausage and stewed milk bean curd. Other famous food streets in Guangzhou include Huifu Snack Street and Beijing Road Pedestrian Street.
South Sea Fishing Village: Another great food spot is the South Sea Fishing Village. Authentic Cantonese cuisine isn’t just on full display here, it’s also excellently prepared. Enjoy deep-fried pork dumplings and crispy pigeon, but expect a wait: The locals love this place and don’t mind waiting in the long lines that form.
Shamian Island: A small island located in Guangzhou’s Liwan District, Shamian Island feels like another world entirely. Tree-lined streets and European-style architecture abound, but it’s the food that beckons visitors here. There are just a handful of restaurants on the island, but they all excel at Cantonese food. If you want a break from the pace of Guangzhou but still want to eat like a king, spend a day or two on Shamian Island.
Guangzhou by night (wallace_Lan/Flickr)
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About the author: Jeska B. is a North American traveler who’s dedicated to seeking and exploring her very own continent to find all the hidden treasures it has to offer.
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