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Must-Try Cantonese Foods, Dishes, and Snacks!

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Hong Kong is a food paradise! Not only does it have the highest density of restaurants in the world, but there is also a great variety of local dishes and mouth-watering delicacies worth trying. On top of the famous dim sum (which we have an entire section on later), there are other Cantonese foods, such as egg tarts and fish balls, that are too good to be missed.

A Happy Face

There’s a saying in Cantonese that reveals how much we care about food:

  • 民以食為天 (man4 ji5 sik6 wai4 tin1) – “Food is god to people.” 

Indeed, food is one of the most important aspects of life: it brings you energy and joy, and you need it every single day. It’s also a great way to experience another culture and it makes for a lovely conversation starter. 

Can’t wait to learn more? Let’s get started!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Let's Cook in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. The Top 5 Must-Try Dishes
  2. The Top 8 Dim Sum Dishes
  3. At the Restaurant
  4. The Top 5 Hong Kong Snacks
  5. Bonus: The Top 5 “Bizarre” Foods
  6. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. The Top 5 Must-Try Dishes

Visiting Hong Kong soon? Then you need to try these delectable Cantonese dishes!

1 – Char siu egg rice

Made famous by Stephen Chow’s movie The God of Cookery, char siu egg rice is now one of Hong Kong’s signature dishes. The combined texture and flavor of runny eggs, tender char siu (flavored barbecued pork), and soy sauce is a heavenly pleasure.

2 – Roasted goose

Roasted Goose

燒鵝 (siu1 ngo2) – Photo by Simon Law, under CC BY-SA 2.0

Roasted goose is a type of siu mei (Cantonese-style charcuterie). It has a crispy outer skin with moist meat inside. Coated with flavorful sauce, roasted goose has a unique barbecue flavor that will surely amaze you.

3 – Stir-fried beef with flat rice noodles

Stir-fried beef with flat rice noodles

乾炒牛河  (gon1 caau2 ngau4 ho2) – Photo by N509FZ, under CC BY-SA 4.0

Made with soy sauce, onions, bean sprouts, and rice noodles, this classic dish is a bit oily but super-delicious. A great dish to have after a day of hard work.

 4 – Clay pot rice

Clay Pot Rice

煲仔飯  (bou1 zai2 faan6)

Although this dish may look simple—steamed rice in a clay pot with toppings (and of course, a great sauce)—it’s totally worth a try, especially the slightly burnt rice at the bottom of the clay pot. Common toppings for clay pot rice include pork, chicken, beef, and Chinese sausages.

5 – Wonton noodles

Wonton Noodles

雲吞麵  (wan4 tan1 min6) – Photo by Alpha, under CC BY-SA 2.0

A staple of Cantonese cuisine, wontons are Chinese dumplings filled with shrimp or meat. Served with clear broth along with thin egg noodles, this is a must-try Hong Kong dish. 

2. The Top 8 Dim Sum Dishes

The most famous Cantonese-style cuisine has got to be dim sum, or 點心 (dim2 sam1)! 

In case you didn’t know, dim sum refers to bite-sized portions of food served in small bamboo baskets or on a small plate. You need to go to Cantonese tea houses for dim sum dishes. In Hong Kong, we call the action of going to a Cantonese tea house for dim sum 飲茶 (jam2 caa4), which means “drink tea.” This is because Chinese tea is usually served with dim sum dishes.

1 – Roasted pork buns

Roasted Pork Buns

叉燒包  (caa1 siu1 baau1) – Photo by Takeaway, under CC BY-SA 3.0

The roasted pork bun is one of the most popular dim sum dishes, consisting of fluffy bread with flavored barbecued pork (char siu) inside. Traditionally we steam the bun, but baked buns are getting more and more popular. 

2 – Steamed shrimp dumplings

Steamed Shrimp Dumplings

蝦餃 (haa1 gaau2) – Photo by Simon Law, under CC BY-SA 2.0

Steamed shrimp dumplings is another signature dim sum dish in Hong Kong. The wrapper of a good steamed shrimp dumpling must be thin yet strong enough to withstand being picked up with chopsticks. The shrimp inside should be fresh with a little juice.

3 – Rice noodle rolls

Rice Noodle Rolls

腸粉 (coeng2 fan2) – Photo by Ewan Monro, under CC BY-SA 2.0

Rice noodle rolls consist of a sheet made of rice filled with things like beef, shrimp, or char siu inside. We eat it with soy sauce.

4 – Pork dumplings

Pork Dumplings

燒賣  (siu1 maai2) – Photo by Geoffreyrabbit, under CC BY-SA 4.0

Pork dumplings is one of the best dim sum dishes, featuring pork and mushroom wrapped in a thin yellow skin and topped with crab roe.

5 – Turnip cake

Made with turnips, mushrooms, and meat (usually Chinese sausages), turnip cakes are great steamed, pan-fried, or stir-fried with XO sauce.

6 – Spring rolls

Spring rolls are one of the best Cantonese cuisine items, and one you’re probably familiar with. A spring roll consists of vegetables and sometimes meat rolled inside a sheet of dough and deep-fried until crispy (but still juicy inside). Who wouldn’t want one?

7 – Steamed beef tripe

Steamed Beef Tripe

牛柏葉  (ngau4 paak3 jip6) – Photo by gigijin, under CC BY-SA 2.0

Steamed beef tripe is a common dim sum dish in Hong Kong, but it’s less well-known internationally compared to the ones above. It’s prepared by steaming the omasum of a cow in small slices of garlic and ginger. The unique appearance and texture of this dish wows many foreigners.

8 – Dumpling soup

Dumpling Soup

灌湯餃  (gun3 tong1 gaau2) – Photo by Kent Wang, under CC BY-SA 2.0

A prime example of Cantonese-style cuisine, this is simply a large dumpling filled with meat, shrimp, dried scallops, and mushrooms, served with broth. It’s a pricier dim sum dish, but the complex texture and flavor make it worth a try.

3. At the Restaurant

Now that you’re good and hungry for some exquisite Cantonese cuisine, it’s time to learn some phrases you can use at the restaurant!

  •  Phrase 1: 你有乜嘢好介紹呀? 
    • Romanization: nei5 jau5 mat1 je5 hou2 gaai3 siu6 aa3
    • Meaning: What do you recommend?
  •  Phrase 2: 我可唔可以睇下menu?
    • Romanization: ngo5 ho2 m4 ho2 ji5 tai2 haa5 menu
    • Meaning: Can I see the menu? 
  •  Phrase 3: 我想要呢個,唔該。
    • Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 jiu3 ni1 go3, m4 goi1
    • Meaning: I will have this one, please. 
  •  Phrase 4: 我可唔可以要杯水?
    • Romanization: ngo5 ho2 m4 ho2 ji5 jiu3 bui1 seoi2
    • Meaning: Can I have a glass of water, please?
  •  Phrase 5: 呢道菜有啲咩? 
    • Romanization:  ni1 dou6 coi3 jau5 di1 me1 
    • Meaning: What does this dish contain?
  •  Phrase 6: 呢道菜有冇肉?
    • Romanization: ni1 dou6 coi3 jau5 mou5 juk6
    • Meaning: Does it contain meat? 

4. The Top 5 Hong Kong Snacks

Hong Kong street food is my personal favorite! You can easily find these snacks at food stalls on the streets of Hong Kong.

1 – Fish balls

Fish balls are a typical Hong Kong snack made of fish. They can be found in almost every food stall on the street and are sold with either spicy (curry) sauces or soy sauce.

2 – Egg tarts

Egg Tarts

蛋撻  (daan6 taat1)

This delicious pastry is filled with sweet egg and best served hot. You can find egg tarts in both Cantonese tea houses and local bakeries.

3 – Egg waffle

This snack goes by many names: egg waffles, eggettes, egglets… This sweet egg-based snack is available in several flavors, including chocolate and berry. Some people even eat it with ice cream!

4 – Pineapple bun

The combination of sugar, eggs, flour, and lard makes pineapple bun one of the most beloved foods in Hong Kong. There’s no pineapple, though—it’s named for its surface, which looks like a pineapple. Pineapple bun has a crispy skin and soft bread inside, and can be found in nearly every bakery in the city.

5 – Roasted sweet potatoes and chestnuts

Roasted sweet potatoes and chestnuts are great snacks. You can find street carts selling both items side by side during winter. They smell good and taste even better. Grabbing a bag of roasted sweet potatoes and chestnuts during the freezing winter is just heartwarming. Most of these vendors sell salt-baked quail eggs, too.

5. Bonus: The Top 5 “Bizarre” Foods

To wrap up, let’s look at a few Cantonese food dishes that may surprise you!

1 – Steamed chicken feet

Steamed Chicken Feet

鳳爪  (fung6 zaau2) – Photo by Bryan, under CC BY-SA 2.0

Many foreigners avoid this dish, shocked by the idea of eating chicken feet. But steamed chicken feet are actually quite delicious in black bean sauce. You can find this dish in Cantonese tea houses.

2 – Snake soup

Snake Soup

蛇羹 (se4 gang1) – Photo by Shankar S., under CC BY 2.0

Yes, snake soup is made with snake. But don’t worry: you won’t see anything that resembles a snake in the soup bowl. Snake soup is a delicacy in Hong Kong, famous for its medicinal benefits (from the perspective of Chinese medicine, it “warms up” your body) and its high nutritional value. 

3 – Beef entrails

A beef entrails dish is prepared by stewing good-quality beef with its entrails (such as the tripe and liver) for a couple of hours. You can spot it in most food stalls on the streets of Hong Kong.

 4 – Soy-braised cuttlefish or chicken’s kidney

It may look a little weird, but it’s surely delicious! The cuttlefish and chicken’s kidneys are boiled quickly before being dipped in a soy-based sauce. They’re spongy and chewy, and taste best with mustard.

5 – Stinky tofu

Although it doesn’t smell good, the mixture of creamy tofu and the crisp outer skin is a delight. If you can stand the smell, make sure you try some in Hong Kong! 

6. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

Amazed by Cantonese food and want to pick up some Cantonese before traveling to Hong Kong?

With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced repetition flashcards, and a lively community where you can discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program

Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native! 

Before you go, let us know in the comments which Cantonese food you most want to try. We look forward to hearing from you.

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