What do I know about Cantonese cuisine and why should I care?
I do care though because my aim is to eat cheap with a lot of variety and still have all the macro and micronutrients I need. For that I must understand what local kitchen is all about and try to find the best balance.
When people talk about Chinese food they generally refer to Cantonese cuisine
as the most popular both in China and outside and while Hong Kong is a separate country politically it’s still pretty much China when we talk eating.
The first thing that springs to mind about Cantonese cuisine is that it’s pretty fatty. It favours pork, duck and oily sauces, loves deep fried stuff and makes good use of entrails, on the other hand there are a lot of veggies (stir fried or braised) and a ton of seafood which is always a good choice (yet it comes with a hefty price tag, so is not always an option for health caring cheapshits 😜).
Hongkongese really do prefer their local food over everything else: you can find an Italian or Spanish restaurant but those are scarce, even burgers are not that popular, clearly losing to noodles and roasted duck. The western thing they do appreciate though is pastry. There indeed are a lot of bakeries in HK selling Asian variations of European pastry (nobody can cook a croissant like French do, hence the “variation” part) as well as local stuff like pineapple buns, dried and barbecue pork buns and extremely popular Portuguese egg-tarts. When it comes to drinks, sweet milk tea with tapioca toppings (bubble tea) is very popular and gathers lines for the best vendors.
Mostly people eat out or take out, which is no surprise with the abundance of cafes and restaurant and every hole in wall selling fast food
It’s ok to eat noodles or rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner as they do not have specific foods reserved for different parts of the day.
Fast food stalls mostly sell deep fried stuff on a stick (tiny fried octopus are just adorable), fishballs, sausage, a lot of intestines (fried, deep fried or in soup), roast duck, cuttlefish and chicken and various dim-sums from glutinous rice to dumplings and spring rolls. Restaurants generally specialise on some specific dish like wonton noodles, dim sum, seafood dishes and the like.
To keep the nutrition balanced without spending too much we were choosing most filling and least fatty meals like steamed dumplings, glutinous rice and all sorts of noodles
Our daily spending on food was 17$ per person, this meant 3 meals and some snacks that we had on the go. With a budget this low we were mostly sticking to street food, bakeries and fruit with one meal at a café or restaurant per day. To keep the nutrition balanced without spending too much we were choosing most filling and least fatty meals like steamed dumplings, glutinous rice and all sorts of noodles there were, adding mostly chicken or beef. Seafood would have been the best choice obviously, yet impossible on our target spending. This does not mean we would not go for roasted duck or spring rolls when we felt like it, those just were not the base of our diet.
When I look at what the average day looked like, turns out that even though we were eating a lot of fast food the balance for macronutrients was pretty much OK. The saturated fat levels were low, as we were trying to limit fried and severely processed food to reasonable minimum, and while we did indulge in pastry, we did not buy regular candy bars which are more on the fatty/sugary side. Being able to buy fruit also helps, for sure.
sure, we could have done better on protein consumption and eaten less of carbs
On the other hand, we are not training actively and are not afraid to lose muscle mass with strenuous cardio. With a NEAT of 1850 kCal for me the menu was just enough and once in a while I would go for an additional ginger tofu pudding (around 250 Kcal is bought from desert shop, low on fat, high on carbs and protein) and Oleg, whose NEAT is even higher would buy a piece of fatty roast duck (350 kCal per 100gr 1/4th protein and the rest in fat).
In general, it is always useful to be sensible. Try to learn about key ingredients of unfamiliar dishes, make sure you understand what you eat, do not follow useless trends (like ever popular bubble waffles – they taste exactly like regular waffle or overdone crepe and often come with a ton of toppings, – as a result you get a ton of calories, a very average taste and (maybe) a pic for instagram), and keep your balance.