Guangdong cuisine is unique among the Chinese cuisines. Its raw materials, cooking methods, and flavorings all differ from the other cuisines. Guangdong is located in southern China. Bordered by the mountain ranges to the north and the South China Sea to the south, it has long been separated from the hinterland. In ancient times the Baiyue people lived there, but many immigrants from the hinterland moved in during the Qin and Han Dynasties. The dietetic culture of Guangdong has retained many eating habits and customs of the ancient people, such as eating snakes. In short, to the people of Guangdong, everything that walks, crawls, flies, or swims is edible. Many of these strange foods no longer appeal to todays refined tastes, and some have been eliminated out of respect for the eating habits of people in other areas, but some strange foods still remain.
The most famous dish, Dragon and Tiger Fight, is a dish of braised snake and leopard. It has even been served as the main course at important banquets. Other famous dishes are dragon, tiger, and phoenix with chrysanthemum (snake, leopard, and chicken), braised phoenix liver and snake slices (chicken liver and snake), and stir-fried shredded snake meat in five colors.
Since the Ming and Qing Dynasties, Guangdong has become more prosperous, and it has developed closer contacts with the hinterland. As Western culture has been introduced, Guangdong cuisine has absorbed the cooking skills of the West as well as the cooking skills of other Chinese regions to develop its own unique methods. The most characteristic cooking methods are cooking in salt, cooking in wine, baking in a pan, and soft frying.
Cooking in salt means the preserved ingredient (a whole chicken, for example) is buried in heated salt until it is well done. The most famous of these dishes is Salt Cooked Chicken from Dongjiang.
Cooking in wine means the main ingredient is steamed in alcoholic vapor. The most typical dish is twin pigeons cooked in rose wine. Two cleaned pigeons on two chopsticks are placed in an earthen bowl so as to keep them away from the bottom. Place a cup of rose wine between the pigeons, then put the bowl inside an iron pot and heat the pot until the pigeons are well done. Half a cup of wine will remain without the slightest smell of wine, but the pigeons will have acquired an appealing fragrance of rose wine.
Baking in a pan means the ingredients are put in an iron pan with a cast iron lid. The pan is covered with a red hot cast iron lid and heated until the dish is done. A typical dish of this type is baked egg.
Soft frying is another unique cooking method of the Guangdong cuisine. The main ingredients are liquid or semi liquid, such as fresh milk and minced chicken. The technique is: heat the pan over a hot fire, then pour some oil in the pan to coat the bottom, Add a little more oil and stir in the ingredients over a medium to low fire. Typical dishes are stir fried fresh milk and stir fried eggs.
Guangdong cuisine emphasizes seafood, and unique, mixed flavorings. For example, one flavoring liquid is a mixture prepared from onion, garlic, sugar, salt, and spices. The gravy is prepared from a mixture of peanut oil, ginger, onion, Shaoxing rice wine, crystallized sugar, anise, cassia bark, licorice root, clove, ginger powder, dried tangerine peel, and Momordica grosuvenori. Spiced salt is prepared from refined salt, sugar, powdered spices, and anise. These flavorings, along with other favorite condiments such as oyster sauce, fish sauce, clam oil, and curry, give Guangdong cuisine its unique taste.
Guangdong cuisine is divided into three branches: Guangdong food is traditional Guangdong cuisine; Chaozhou food is similar to Fujian cuisine because Chaozhou neighbors Fujian Province. It stresses seafood and many dishes are served in soup. Its flavors are thick, delicious, and sweet. Cooks like to use fish sauce, hot sauce and red vinegar. Dongjiang food, which is represented by Huizhou food, emphasizes domestic animals and poultry. Its dishes are slightly salty with simple sauces. Guangdong cuisine has been heavily influenced by foreign cooking cultures.