Common Cantonese Food

8 Foods You Had Growing Up Cantonese That Are Just As Good Today

Yes, bird saliva and black eggs are actually edible.


Growing up in New York City, I was able to indulge in the Cantonese cuisine my parents had grown up with. Whether it was over elaborate banquets at restaurants or during hectic morning dim sum rushes, Cantonese food brought people of all generations together at the table. How many of these can you recognize?

1. Fake shark fin soup

Personally, vermicelli and other noodles have always replaced shark fin whenever I had this dish — hence, the "fake." This soup is usually scooped out from a large bowl at a big family event like a grandparent's birthday, a distant cousin's wedding, or a holiday dinner. Red vinegar and sesame oil can be added to bring out the flavors of the mushrooms, meat, and black fungus.

2. Bird's nest

Although James Corden has continually ridiculed this delicacy, it is one of the most expensive and sought after ingredients in many Asian countries. It is cultivated from the Indian swiftlet's nest, made entirely out of solidified saliva, and people have to scale up the walls of caves in the dark for them. Then, it is harvested before being sold to the public. Growing up, I was always told that it held anti-aging and health benefits and had high nutritional value. It can be bought in its dried form to use in soups or as concentrated liquids in glass jars. It's perfect as a gift for any older relatives you have!

3. Oil fried breadsticks

Also referred to as youtiao, these deep-fried pieces of dough are often eaten alongside a bowl of congee in the morning. However, they can also accompany any other dish from warm stews to a cup of soy milk.

4. Congee with century egg

Congee is made of rice boiled with water that has been flavored with a variety of toppings. The century egg, also referred to as pidan, is a preserved form of quail, duck, or chicken egg that takes months to make. Although its appearance can be shocking, its flavor is delicious, especially in this dish. Often made with lean pork, green onions, and garlic, it easily warms and fills your stomach on a cold day.

5. Tofu skin

A common dish passed around at dim sum, tofu skin is made up of film collected from boiling soy milk that has been pressed together. A personal favorite of mine, this is also present in soups and stews that have been flavored with a strong meat base, like pork. It soaks up the flavors of other ingredients in the dish and its soft texture melts in your mouth.

6. Choy sum

A common dish at the dinner table, its name directly translates to "the heart of a vegetable." This leafy plant has yellow flowers that are cut away before it is stir-fried with sliced garlic and other seasonings.

7. Honey walnut shrimp

Often ordered at Chinese restaurants, this dish features battered shrimp covered in condensed milk and served with honey glazed walnuts. Usually, it is also served with more condensed milk that has been deep fried. A favorite for children and adults alike, the balance of flavors in the authentic version (not the ones you get at Panda Express) is irreplaceable.

8. Sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf

Also referred to as lo mai gai, this dish is usually found at dim sum restaurants. It is made with glutinous rice, sausage, dried shrimp, scallions, and a salted egg wrapped and steamed between two lotus leaves. As it is quite large, it is the perfect dish to unravel with family and friends at the table!

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​An Open Letter To The People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers

This one's for you.

Dear Person Who Has No Idea How Much The 0 In The “Tip:" Line Matters,

I want to by asking you a simple question: Why?

Is it because you can't afford it? Is it because you are blind to the fact that the tip you leave is how the waiter/waitress serving you is making their living? Is it because you're just lazy and you “don't feel like it"?

Is it because you think that, while taking care of not only your table but at least three to five others, they took too long bringing you that side of ranch dressing? Or is it just because you're unaware that as a server these people make $2.85 an hour plus TIPS?

The average waiter/waitress is only supposed to be paid $2.13 an hour plus tips according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That then leaves the waiter/waitress with a paycheck with the numbers **$0.00** and the words “Not a real paycheck." stamped on it. Therefore these men and women completely rely on the tips they make during the week to pay their bills.

So, with that being said, I have a few words for those of you who are ignorant enough to leave without leaving a few dollars in the “tip:" line.

Imagine if you go to work, the night starts off slow, then almost like a bomb went off the entire workplace is chaotic and you can't seem to find a minute to stop and breathe, let alone think about what to do next.

Imagine that you are helping a total of six different groups of people at one time, with each group containing two to 10 people.

Imagine that you are working your ass off to make sure that these customers have the best experience possible. Then you cash them out, you hand them a pen and a receipt, say “Thank you so much! It was a pleasure serving you, have a great day!"

Imagine you walk away to attempt to start one of the 17 other things you need to complete, watch as the group you just thanked leaves, and maybe even wave goodbye.

Imagine you are cleaning up the mess that they have so kindly left behind, you look down at the receipt and realize there's a sad face on the tip line of a $24.83 bill.

Imagine how devastated you feel knowing that you helped these people as much as you could just to have them throw water on the fire you need to complete the night.

Now, realize that whenever you decide not to tip your waitress, this is nine out of 10 times what they go through. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to realize that this is someone's profession — whether they are a college student, a single mother working their second job of the day, a new dad who needs to pay off the loan he needed to take out to get a safer car for his child, your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, you.

If you cannot afford to tip, do not come out to eat. If you cannot afford the three alcoholic drinks you gulped down, plus your food and a tip do not come out to eat.

If you cannot afford the $10 wings that become half-off on Tuesdays plus that water you asked for, do not come out to eat.

If you cannot see that the person in front of you is working their best to accommodate you, while trying to do the same for the other five tables around you, do not come out to eat. If you cannot realize that the man or woman in front of you is a real person, with their own personal lives and problems and that maybe these problems have led them to be the reason they are standing in front of you, then do not come out to eat.

As a server myself, it kills me to see the people around me being deprived of the money that they were supposed to earn. It kills me to see the three dollars you left on a $40 bill. It kills me that you cannot stand to put yourself in our shoes — as if you're better than us. I wonder if you realize that you single-handedly ruined part of our nights.

I wonder if maybe one day you will be in our shoes, and I hope to God no one treats you how you have treated us. But if they do, then maybe you'll realize how we felt when you left no tip after we gave you our time.

Cover Image Credit: Hailea Shallock

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Sweet Potatoes Are The Most Underrated Vegetable Of All Time

Everything you need to know about the pieces of edible gold we call "sweet potatoes" and why they will always perish over any plain old potato.


The potato. The heart of the American food industry. A versatile vegetable crop soaked in grease that brings us some of our favorite appetizers and sides. From french fries, to curly fries, to tater tots, to baked potatoes, to hash browns, this hallowed vegetable has become the Johnny Depp of the vegetable family. Now, we are all aware that the configurations of potatoes are limitless, but we commonly disregard the potato's delicious and neglected brother: the sweet potato. I, a credible food connoisseur and highly experienced eater, am here to tell you why you are missing out on a world of flavor if you choose to dismiss the beloved sweet potato and its many entities.

Let me first start this tirade by proving to you my credibility...I, too, once believed that regular french fries were better than sweet potato fries. I scoffed at the idea of choosing those ridiculous orange sticks over my tried-and-true plain boys. I could not be convinced that any sweetness should impede on my savory snacks.

These were dark times.

It was not until a mere month ago that my mind was changed forever.

It was a sunny (scary) Sunday morning, and my pounding head led me on a mission to indulge myself in the finest breakfast foods. I entered my favorite breakfast diner, Angelo's, and waited anxiously for my waiter to stroll over. She filled our water cups and asked if we wanted to start with any appetizers. Before my stingy self could even decline the offer, my best friend ordered a round of sweet potato fries for the table and the waiter scurried away. I stared blankly at her for a solid minute. I could not wrap my head around the concept of munching on sweet potato fries at 8 in the morning. She just stared back and said, "Trust me." Suddenly, a tray of blood orange sticks and a mysterious tan sauce appeared in front of my face. As much as I wanted to ponder the morality of this decision, the hunger began to take over, and I shoved one of the fries into my mouth.

In an instant, it was as if time and space had lost all meaning. When my teeth hit the fry, the perfectly crusted outer shell crunched softly making a sound much like your foot crushing a dried leaf. The now exposed inside of the fry was the perfect blend of mush and warmth that felt like your mouth was receiving a hug. The flavor...unbelievable. It didn't take me long to realize that this wasn't a fry — this was a culinary experience. This fry single-handedly blew the roof off of any predisposed ideas I had about American cuisine.

I am well aware that my fry experience cannot be simulated again by any average food-goer, but I challenge you, the reader of this article, to get out there and enjoy a sweet potato in any form. Stray from your basic fries or tater tots and dabble in a sweet treat which will undoubtedly bring you flavorful satisfaction.

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