In China’s southern city of Guangzhou, eight restaurants were recently awarded a Michelin star by the famous restaurant guide. The move now puts a spotlight on the culinary culture of Guangzhou, also known as the epicenter of Cantonese cuisine. CGTN’s Cui Hui’ao visits one of the newly minted Michelin-starred restaurants.
Steamed crab custard – a dish by Chef Guo Yuanfeng at the Ritz Carlton’s Lai Heen restaurant, which received one star in the latest Guangzhou edition of the Michelin Guide. The twenty-year veteran chef said that the dish combines the traditional crab with innovative ingredients like rose tea and rice wine, to represent his take on Cantonese cuisine.
“I believe Cantonese cooking is now at the juncture of innovation,” explained Chef Guo. “The concept of fusion is very important, always searching for new ingredients and combinations, while inheriting the essence of Cantonese cooking.”
The Michelin Guide has always had a slant towards Cantonese restaurants, especially fine dining establishments like Lai Heen, found in a hotel with good ambiance and quality service. But in a city known as the epicenter of Cantonese cuisine, it came as a surprise to many that there are no two- or three-star winners here.
Anna Wu, a Guangzhou resident, said, “I was surprised by the list because Guangzhou has so many great places for food, like street food, braised goose, etc. Some restaurants deserve better ratings.”
One explanation could be many street-side restaurants don’t meet the Michelin standard, despite their popularity among locals. Meanwhile, one food critic, Gao Shengyi, said it might also have to do with the culinary scene in Guangzhou, a lack of variety, and international vision.
“Cantonese restaurants in Guangzhou are pretty conservative in cooking, with similar menus and cooking methods. You can hardly tell them apart. And for fine dining, when it comes to elements like a good wine list, Guangzhou’s establishments are short on those things too, ” Gao argued.
On that note, Chef Guo said his restaurant will continue to work on details, and elevate culinary standards.
“When it comes to food, Guangzhou has no equal” is a popular refrain. However, both chef Guo and food critic Gao said Michelin’s arrival makes insiders aware that Cantonese cuisine has some work to do, such as becoming more open to new ideas and continuing to innovate.