Cantonese restaurant

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Cantonese restaurant
HK Sai Kung Seafood Street n restaurants.JPG
A seafood restaurant in Sai Kung, Hong Kong
Traditional Chinese 茶樓
Simplified Chinese 茶楼
Literal meaning tea house
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 酒樓
Simplified Chinese 酒楼
Literal meaning wine house

A Cantonese restaurant is a type of Chinese restaurant that originated in Southern China. This style of restaurant soon flourished in Hong Kong.


Some of the earliest restaurants in Colonial Hong Kong were influenced by Cantonese people.[1] Throughout the history of Hong Kong cuisine, a great deal of Southern China's diet became synonymous with Cantonese style food.

As many Cantonese people, including chefs, emigrated from Hong Kong to the Western world, authentic Cantonese restaurants began appearing in many Chinatowns overseas. From 1980 to 1986, an estimated 21,000 left Hong Kong permanently each year. Beginning in 1987 the numbers rose sharply to 48,000 people a year.[2]

Many Chinese restaurants in the United Kingdom are actually Cantonese take-out restaurants with few people recognising the difference between Cantonese and mainstream Chinese.

The origin of Cantonese restaurant was teahouse. Teahouses were places where people met to drink tea during the ancient Dynasty of China. It was popular among south China where people used to love drinking tea. Therefore, teahouse was always characterized as a social function to gather people. [1]

Many early Chinese restaurants were influenced by the Cantonese people. Southern China is famous for nice weather benefitting agriculture. Therefore, many cuisines are in fact originated in Southern China, what we call now Cantonese food.

Restaurant types[edit]

Typically in the afternoon, dim sum are served during yum cha hour. A few Cantonese dishes may be available. In the evening, various Chinese banquets of Cantonese cuisine are held in the restaurant.

  • Tea house: chaa lau (Chinese: 茶樓), is a place serving only tea, dim sum and simple dishes.
  • Wine house: jau lau (Chinese: 酒樓), is a place serving banquets. i.e. 9-course menu usually for a table of 12 guests. From the early 20th century, jau lau started providing tea and dim sum like cha lau. Thus only a few chaa lau remain in business.
  • Seafood restaurants (Chinese: 海鮮酒家), are restaurants that specialize in live seafood dishes.

Modern Cantonese dishes are a far cry from its early root in Guangzhou. They include generous use of off-the-shelf condiment, enrich by natural and artificial additives, boosting uncanny color and favor. Most Chinese restaurant nowadays cannot afford 100% cooking with raw herbs and spices.


Nearly all the Cantonese restaurants provide yum cha, dim sum, dishes, and banquets with their business varying between the hour of the day. Some restaurants try to stand out by becoming more specialised (focusing on hot pot dishes or seafood, for example), while others offer dishes from other Chinese cuisines such as Szechuan, Shanghai, Fujian (Teochew cooking, a regional variation of Guangzhou is similar to that of Fujian), Hakka, and many others.

A new kind of Cantonese restaurants are quickly spreading overseas and mainland China. It is often referred as Hong Kong-style zau lau (Chinese: 香港式酒樓) outside Hong Kong.

Food type[edit]

Traditional Chinese emphasize enjoyment of food. They like creating outstanding dishes including the fine tastes and attractive outlook.[3] Food is usually being served in two types, on big round plate or inside a steaming basket.

For example, most of the dim sum is steamed using a bamboo basket, so Chinese restaurants always serve dim sum to customers directly in the basket. For the seafood restaurants or banquet, food like steamed shrimps or fried noodles are always being served in a big round plate where people can share the food together in the middle of the table.

Food must be placed in a good condition on the utensils with colorful decorations around the plate such as carrots and cucumbers. Some high-class restaurants nowadays even make the Chinese food in unusual ways like making the dim sum into the shape of rabbit or fish. That would make the dish more delicious and enhanced the enjoyment of food.

Making Chinese food is never an easy work, cooking procedure is always the most critical part in making good Chinese food. The matching of appropriate time, water and temperature is of paramount importance.[4] Most of the Chinese restaurants are famous for long history, The reason why these branded restaurants are more popular than the others is because of the secret recipe. The longer the history of the restaurants in serving customers, the more fruitful experience they could get from customers. Only experienced chef can modify a perfect matching point in cooking Chinese food. Therefore, we may find many Chinese restaurants in anywhere, however, not all of them can make delicious and traditional Chinese tastes.

Michelin-starred restaurants[edit]

In the inaugural 2009 Hong Kong and Macau edition of the Michelin Guide, 14 restaurant received stars including two stars to three restaurants, ten with one star and the maximum of three stars to Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong helmed by Chef de cuisine Chan Yan-tak. It remains the only Chinese restaurant in Hong Kong to carry such distinction.[3]

Historical customs[edit]

Yum Cha has a long history and customs have been developed.

For the traditional Chinese Restaurant, all tables must be round. Food is served in the middle of the table and dishes are shared among the same table. This is why we call yum cha has a social function. The design of table fosters the communication between people.

Another usual practice is that whenever we see others’ teacup is emptied, we help others especially the elders to refill the tea. It is a Chinese custom to tap our fingers on the table near your cup twice as a sign of reverence and thanks.[5] In this sense, parents usually teach children to practice filial to our elders by refilling tea and serving food to them.

Chinese Restaurants Abroad[edit]

From the 1980s, there were several migrating heats in China. Among the migrants, many chefs brought along their skills and developed Chinese food industry overseas. [6] Some enterprises brought capitals with them to open up Chinese restaurants abroad. Migrants bring Chinese food and eating culture to overseas. Therefore, we can see there are now a large number of Chinese food industries all over the world. For Spain, there are report eight hundred Chinese restaurants located in Madrid and one hundred in Barcelona.[7] Nowadays, the number of Chinese restaurants in America is three times more than the Mcdonald’s franchise.[8] From all the above statistics, we can see the big influence from Chinese restaurants in all over the world.

Other Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurants includes:[4][5]

In the 2013 edition, independent restaurant Pang's Kitchen in Happy Valley was awarded one star.[8]


[1] Wang, L. (2005). Tea and Chinese culture (illustrated ed.). Beijing: Long River Press, 2005.

[2] Dim sum. (2012). In Collins English Dictionary(2012 Digital Edition ed.). HarperCollins. Retrieved 10 May 2015.

[3] Simoons, F. J. (1991). Food in Chinese thought and culture. Food in China, A cultural and historical inquiry (pp. 13-26). United States: Telford Press.

[4] Fei, J., Jie, Y., & Fan, J. (2009). Towards virtually cooking Chinese food. Multimedia and Expo, 2009. ICME 2009. IEEE International Conference, New York, NY. pp. 1346-1349.

[5] Wong, H. (2012, August 2). Enjoying yum cha is a way of life in Guangzhou. Message posted to Retrieved 10 May 2015.

[6] Jen, G. (2005, April 27). A short history of the Chinese restaurant. Slate. Retrieved 10 May 2015.

[7] Tang, C. F., & Goldberg, R. (2015). Chinese restaurants abroad. Retrieved 10 May 2015.

[8] Lin, L., & Liu, H. (2009). Food, culinary identity, and transnational culture: Chinese restaurant business in southern California.12(2). Retrieved 10 May 2015.

Cantonese Restaurant. (2014). In Wikipedia (November 18, 2014ed.). Wikipedia. Retrieved 10 May 2015.

Notable restaurants[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wiltshire, Trea. [First published 1987] (republished & reduced 2003). Old Hong Kong - Volume One. Central, Hong Kong: Text Form Asia books Ltd. ISBN Volume One 962-7283-59-2
  2. ^ Manion, Melanie. [2004](2004). Corruption by Design: Building Clean Government in Mainland China and Hong Kong. Harvard University press. ISBN 0-674-01486-3
  3. ^ Kühn, Kerstin (26 November 2009). "Four Seasons hotel sets world record in new Michelin Hong Kong guide". CatererSearch (Reed Business Information). Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  4. ^ Lim, Le-Min (2 December 2008). "Michelin Hong Kong Gives 3 Stars to 2 Restaurants (Update1)". Bloomberg. Retrieved 6 December 2012. 
  5. ^ Lam, Tiffany (1 December 2009). "Hong Kong restaurants to avoid right now: Michelin guide's newest stars, the complete list". CNN Travel. Retrieved 6 December 2012. 
  6. ^ Christopher DeWolf; Doug Meigs (3 October 2011). "The best Hong Kong dim sum". CNN Travel. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  7. ^ 一星遭謫 鏞記「跌落凡塵」, Apple Daily (in Chinese), 2 December 2011, retrieved 2011-12-01 
  8. ^ Chan, Candy (5 December 2012). "Owners seeing stars as foodie bible is unveiled". The Standard. Retrieved 5 December 2012.