We are continuing our journey of the Eight Great Traditions of Chinese Cuisine next with the Cantonese Cuisine.
This is the third in the series of eight dinners organized by the 8GTCC Team as we explore the rich traditions of Chinese cuisines. A few months ago, we had two very successful dinners. The first was the dinner in Alvin Garden on the Hunan Cuisine which was attended by 52 people. This was followed by a dinner focused on the Jiangsu Cuisine. That event attracted an even bigger response where almost 70 people attended the monstrous 17-course dinner in Shanghai Village.
We are now ready to take the wraps off the 8GTCC Cantonese dinner. For that past few weeks, LotusRapper and Joe had been working hard in putting together this event. I can tell you that between the two of them, they had been visiting quite a few restaurants (all on their own time and expenses too!) and doing a lot of research in the effort to learn about the Cantonese culture and cuisine.
Being the cuisine leads, LotusRapper and Joe was just the people we needed to spearhead the Cantonese Cuisine. After all, both of them are Canto-Boys. So they will be taking us on a journey from the rustic farm house of Hunan and the ancient Chinese capital in the Jiangsu province to the riches and luxurious abundance of the Guangdong province.
The past few days were particularly frantic as LotusRapper and Joe were busy negotiating with the restaurant in the effort to finalize a fine menu with some of the best delicacies that the Cantonese has to offer. It took a while but they managed to finalize that late yesterday. Location wise, it is better than we expected as we get a private room for this. Not only will this be chance you will savour good quality delicacies but it will also be visually interesting. And to top it all, the restaurant had given us a special price too!
Because of the vastness of the Cantonese cuisine, at one point we were seriously toying with the idea of doing two dinners … one homestyle simple dinner and the other on the high-end luxurious one. While it would be easy to do a homestyle dinner, we thought we cannot make it unique and special as we wanted. I mean, for all the Chinese cuisines in Vancouver, the Cantonese cuisine is the one that everyone is most familiar with already. We even talked about doing the so-called sub-Cantonese cuisine like Chiu Chow and Hakka. We also seriously approached the thought of doing a Contemporary Chinese Cuisine, the likes of Bo Innovation and Susur Lee.
Long story short, we will now do what we felt best reflect the unique nature of the Cantonese. Their riches, extravagance and abundance are best reflected in their cuisine like no other Chinese cuisines … done in the style of a banquet.
The details of the 8GTCC Cantonese dinner is at the bottom of this post. I hope you will take the time to join us in this next exploration of Chinese Cuisine … and of the riches, extravagance and abundance of the Cantonese Cuisine.
Here … let’s start off learning a bit about Guangdong (Canton), the people and the cuisine … as presented by Joe and LotusRapper … and accompanied by a 1970s Canto-Pop song.
Take it away, Canto-Boys!
[audio:http://chowtimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Last-Message-Crazy-Song-Sam-Hui.mp3|titles=Last Message Crazy Song (Sam Hui)]
Let’s face facts: Cantonese cuisine is the fat, bloated rock star of all regional Chinese cuisines, cruising on excess and ripe for young punks to pick off. Largely credited both in and out of China as being the “best” of the regional fares, the region has an inflated reputation to live up to, the ego to do so, and – with all caution thrown to the subjective winds – the chops to back it up.
Geography of Guangdong
The actual physical region from which Cantonese cuisine derives will vary depending on who you ask. At times it’s synonymous with the Pearl River Delta; at other times takes the whole Guangdong province into consideration; at its broadest, the term includes Hong Kong, neighbouring Guanxi, and even Cantonese immigrant fare from outside the country. As Jakob Klein puts it, “the English term ‘Cantonese cuisine’ actually conveys some of this ambiguity quite nicely.”
The province has primarily been a wealthy one, relative to other Chinese regions. This, to a large extent, is due to its physical location, tucked away at the sub-tropical southeast corner of the country, beneficially far from the cold, clammy hands of the Mongolian north, and the last home of the Song Dynasty before it fell to Kublai Khan’s Yuan Dynasty in 1279.
Guangdong also has 4,300km of coastline facing the South China Sea. The Pearl River Delta, where three rivers converge and surround hundreds of small islands, feeds into this sea; the region is also home to and a term for its major cities, including Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and the SARs of Hong Kong and Macau. European merchants sailing through the waters – particularly the Portuguese and British – traded extensively through Guangzhou. In an effort to contain foreign merchants and influence to confined quarters, the Qing Dynasty restricted all foreign trade to Guangzhou’s 13 Factories (the so-called “Canton System,” running from approx. 1757 to 1842), where European and American merchants established trading companies to transact with the Cohong, a Chinese merchant association, due to a restriction on foreigners from dealing directly with Chinese civilians. The European demand for silk and tea soon created a large trading deficit until the British decided to import opium. The complex story, of course, continues further from there.
The limited seclusion from the Mongols, the proximity to water (and its bounties), the import of foreign goods (and ingredients), and the sub-tropical weather does well for Guangdong, and created a sequestered environment wherein its people could develop a cuisine based on an endless supply of fresh ingredients, flora and fauna.
Restaurants began to flourish in Guangdong throughout the times of … (more…)