With the rise of sushi and the craze around Korean, we seem to have forgotten our nation's Chinese restaurants. The humble chicken in black bean sauce seems to have been left behind for Katsu curry but we're here to help it rise to its former glory. Cantonese food is much more complex than the sweet and sour battered chicken balls we know so well. For example, did you know that OK sauce is super popular? It might not be a shop staple in the UK but it has a huge market in Asia and a crucially tangy element in most Cantonese dishes. Here are some more Cantonese dining delights, some which may be totally new to you.
1. Dim Sum
Dim Sum is made up of snacking buns or parcels filled with meat or vegetables. They're traditionally eaten at 'yum cha', the Cantonese equivalent of brunch or afternoon tea which literally means "drink tea". Traditionally, big fluffy buns and dumplings are steamed and served with green tea and eaten with friends. The Duck and Rice in Soho is headed by internationally acclaimed chef Alan Yau and combines all the camaraderie of a British pub with traditional Cantonese food. This includes a range of Dim Sum including a vegetarian Mooli Puff and a Char Siu Bun all perfectly steamed in bamboo.
2. Snow Fungus Soup
This soup has been a staple of Cantonese cooking for centuries and is made from the white fungus that grows on trees in China and Hong Kong. Snow fungus has been used for its gelatinous qualities as well as medicinal benefits including cholesterol-lowering chemicals. If you feel you're guilty of overindulging recently, try the sweetcorn and snow fungus soup from Shikumen for a revitalising lunch or a light entree to a main course.
3. Sweet and Sour Pork
A staple in a Cantonese household and rarely missing from the menu at your local take away, sweet and sour pork is one of the most well-loved dishes in Cantonese cuisine. The sauce dates back to the middle ages and is traditionally made by mixing hawthorn candy and preserved plums with acidic rice vinegar to create a tart and syrupy sauce. The sauce is often seen accompanying deep-fried chicken balls but makes a delicious backdrop for sticky barbecued pork. At Duck Duck Goose in Hampstead, there's an array of meat dishes but it's the sweet and sour pork that caught our eye!
4. Fried Rice
The rice that accompanies a Cantonese meal is anything other than a vehicle for mopping up the sauce. The most flavoursome Cantonese fried rice is made with egg, shrimp and peas and pairs well with sweet and sour pork, however, you can use it to stuff your duck pancake or simply enjoy it on its own. At Phoenix Palace in Baker Street, there are eight different varieties of fried rice to get stuck into, including our favourite, the Salted Fish and Chicken. The only thing that could make it better would be a healthy splash of OK sauce!
If we've got your mouth watering for some traditional Cantonese cuisine, head over to Deliveroo to seek out some more!