olive podcast: 10 things you need to know about Cantonese food and cooking
In this week's episode, supper club host Cherry Tang shares 10 things you need to know about Cantonese food and cooking
This week, supper club host Cherry Tang shares 10 things you need to know about Cantonese food and cooking, including the importance of Cantonese soup, the essential storecupboard ingredients you need and why fat is flavour.
Listen out for next week's episode to hear Catherine Phipps share 10 things you need to know about pressure cooking.
Cherry Tang's Cantonese stories and cooking techniques
The importance of soups
Soup plays a big part in a family meal in the Canton area. Growing up, it was always about nourishing yourself so, depending on the season or if you’d had a late night or been studying hard, your parents would give you a bowl of soup. It’s not just a bowl of soup, it’s about taking care of your body. One soup I like to make is papaya and pork ribs. The papaya adds a sweet taste to the broth and the pork bones contribute a meaty flavour. I then add pearl barley and ginger. I just drink this instead of having dinner sometimes. Especially on a hot day because the soup is light but satisfying. We also have a herbal-based soup. I add red dates and goji berries, then simmer it with chicken and ginseng. It’s our version of a restorative chicken soup.
We don’t use a lot of spice in the Cantonese kitchen. An essential is soy sauce, light and dark. Light soy sauce is saltier, while dark soy sauce gives colour and is thicker. We also use white pepper, shaoxing wine, cornflour, oyster sauce, rock sugar, soy bean sauce and sesame oil. Cantonese cooking is about tasting the ingredient. If I make broccoli with mushrooms, I want to taste the mushrooms – the sauce is not going to take over.
Western-influenced Cantonese food
In Hong Kong, we have something called cha chaang teng – it means ‘tea restaurant’. You can have breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner in there, and the menu has all kinds of Western influences. So for breakfast you can get a scrambled egg sandwich and, at lunchtime, you can have pork chop rice, which is deep-fried pork served on fried rice topped with a tomato sauce and cheese, and then baked in the oven. You can also get steak with spaghetti in black bean sauce, which is served sizzling on a cast-iron hot plate. Another dish is french toast, which is thick pieces of white bread with peanut butter in the middle. You egg and fry it, then put a bit of butter on and drizzle with golden syrup. It’s crazy but I love it.
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Cherry’s top 3 effortless cooking hacks
BLANCH YOUR VEG: This is a great way to get ahead – have your veg blanched in advance so everything is ready to go. Just drop into boiling water for 30 seconds, then drain and put aside until you need them.
USE YOUR FREEZER: If I’m making something time-consuming, such as dumplings, I make extra then freeze them. They cook really well from frozen – just add a little chilli oil and sesame oil, and they’re ready in minutes. Even easier, buy some ready made from the freezer section.
ORDER A WHOLE DUCK: If you’re getting crispy duck as a takeaway, it’s better value to order a whole one as it’s less dry and has more meat. It also reheats well and goes nice and crispy. You can use the carcass for broth, too.