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Cantonese restaurant
A seafood restaurant in Sai Kung, Hong Kong
Traditional Chinese粵式酒家
Simplified Chinese粤式酒家
Literal meaningCantonese Restaurants
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese酒樓
Simplified Chinese酒楼
Literal meaningwine house

A Cantonese restaurant is a type of Chinese restaurant that originated in Southern China. This style of restaurant has rapidly become common 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.

Following the emigration of Cantonese people from Hong Kong to Southeast Asia and the Western world, these authentic Cantonese restaurants began appearing in many Chinatowns overseas. From 1980 to 1986, an estimated 21,000 people permanently left Hong Kong each year, and from 1987 the numbers rose sharply to 48,000 people a year[2] and continued to increase dramatically following the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

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

The origin of Cantonese restaurants was the tea-house. Tea-houses were places where people met to drink tea during China's imperial history. They were popular in southern China where people used to love drinking tea. Therefore, tea-houses were always characterised as a social function to gather people.

Many early Chinese restaurants were influenced by the Cantonese people. Southern China is famous for nice weather benefiting agriculture. Therefore, many regional Chinese cuisines in fact originated in Southern China, although one managed to gain immense popularity as Cantonese cuisine.

Restaurant types

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.

Modern Cantonese dishes are a far cry from their early roots in Guangzhou. They include generous use of off-the-shelf condiments, enriched by natural and artificial additives, boosting uncanny colour and flavour. Most Chinese restaurants nowadays cannot afford to cook with 100% 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 Sichuan, Shanghai, Fujian (Teochew cooking, a regional variation of Guangzhou is similar to that of Fujian), Hakka, and many others.

A new kind of Cantonese restaurant is quickly spreading overseas and mainland China, often referred to as Hong Kong-style jau lau (Chinese: 香港式酒樓) outside Hong Kong.

Food type

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

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

Food will be arranged aesthetically on the utensils with colorful decorations around the plate such as carrots and cucumbers. Recently, some high-class restaurants would come up with unusual presentation ideas for Chinese food such as shaping the dim sum into a rabbit or a fish. The enhanced presentation of food would also increase one's enjoyment of food.

Chinese food is no easy task as the cooking procedure is always the most critical part in producing good Chinese food. Proper control of time, water and temperature is of paramount importance.[4] Most of the Chinese restaurants are famous for its illustrious history. The reason why these branded restaurants are more popular than the others is because of its secret recipe. Only an experienced chef would be able to perfect a recipe in cooking Chinese food. We may find many Chinese restaurants anywhere, however, not all of them can make delicious and traditional Chinese taste.

Michelin-starred restaurants

In the inaugural 2009 Hong Kong and Macau edition of the Michelin Guide, 14 restaurants received stars including ten with one star, three with two stars 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 as the only Chinese restaurant in Hong Kong to carry such distinction.[3]

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]

Historical customs

Yum cha has a rich 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 people at table. This is why yum cha is regarded as a social function. The design of the table helps to foster communication between people.

A usual practice is whenever you see others’ teacup is emptied, you would help them, especially the elders, to refill the tea. It is a Chinese custom to tap fingers on the table near your cup twice as a sign of reverence and thanks. [5] Parents usually teach their children to practice filial piety to elders by refilling tea and serving food to them.

Chinese Restaurants abroad

From the 1980s, there were several migrating waves in China. Among the migrants, many chefs brought along their skills and developed a Chinese food industry overseas. [6] Some enterprises brought capital with them to open up Chinese restaurants abroad. Migrants brought Chinese cuisine and its eating culture overseas. And it became the main type of business of Chinese immigrants. However they are not gaining acceptance by most of the non-Chinese locals until the 20th century.[9] Therefore, the younger generation has tend to change the image of Chinese cuisine from a cheap to trendy image.[10] Alan Yau, the CEO of Soft chow, who changed the Chinese cuisine industry in a professional way, for him the past is a template to refashion and resist.[11] He is both troubled and inspired by his own history in Spain, it is reported that there were eight hundred Chinese restaurants in Madrid and one hundred in Barcelona. [7] In recent times, the number of Chinese restaurants in the United States is three times more than the McDonald's franchise. [8]

Notable restaurants

In Canton

In HongKong

See also


  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) 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. Archived from the original on 25 January 2010. 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. Archived from the original on 6 December 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  9. ^ Gregory, Heather; Symons, Michael (1985). "One Continuous Picnic. A History of Eating in Australia". Labour History (49): 130–131. doi:10.2307/27508769. ISSN 0023-6942. JSTOR 27508769.
  10. ^ Pang, Leo (January 2016). "Regional Chinese Cuisine: The Professionalization of Regional Chinese Restaurants in Sydney". Journal of Chinese Dietary Culture. 12: 21–62.
  11. ^ Russell, Polly (October 2015). "The Alan Yau factor: Wagamama to Park Chinois". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 2022-12-11. Retrieved 24 February 2019.