Guangzhou is famous for its wide variety of quality food as it’s the capital of the Cantonese cuisine. It would be hard to walk around for more then 100 meters in the city and not see a restaurant. To pick a couple of restaurants from this wide array, will always be a bit random and unrepresentative. I have however, listed 8 of the restaurants that I liked the most during my stay in Guangzhou. This should give an idea of the diversity of the meals and how cheap they are priced.
Guangzhou has food options that will fit every person’s need. There are the lighter Chinese style dishes involving rice and noodles but you can also find restaurants serving dishes from Italy, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Turkey, India and many other countries. The food is offered in many different price classes but it will never get really expensive, even at the higher class restaurants. A cheap meal can be bought here for about 10 RMB (1.25 EUR) or sometimes even cheaper.
It’s not always easy to enjoy the meals in a traditional Chinese restaurant, because their menu’s consist of Chinese characters mostly. If you don’t have a person with you who understands the Chinese signs, you would have to play menu lottery to order a meal here.
I’ve mostly been going to restaurants with picture menu’s or with pictures of their dishes on the wall. There is still an abundance of those restaurants anyway and I found that the ones with a written menu only, are generally not that great anyway.
This Vietnamese restaurant is my favourite restaurant in Guangzhou. It’s located in a street called Huifu Donglu which is a side street of Beijing Lu that I wrote about before. They have a menu of over 40 pages, which has pictures of all the dishes and English descriptions. The restaurant is pretty large and consists out of 2 floors.
I’m not the only person who likes this restaurant it seems, because there is always a large group of people waiting outside. It’s best to go a little before 6 o’clock to avoid this line or maybe go around 8. The restaurant is very crowded and the large number of staff members make it all seem a little bit chaotic. That’s what you’ll get in popular restaurants, unfortunately.
The food at Tiger Prawn is very tasty and the portions are larger then at many of the Chinese restaurants in Guangzhou. They have a lot of seafood like crabs, prawns, cod or squid but also chicken, beef dishes and vegetarian dishes. It would be hard for anyone going here not to find a dish to their liking.
The prices are higher then the average restaurants in Guangzhou but this money is well spent. One main dish and a smaller side dish should be enough for one person. It shouldn’t be much more expensive then about 80 RMB per person, unless you go for the more special meals.
If you eat at Tiger Prawn you will get a little bag of paper tissues. For some reason many restaurants in Guangzhou don’t have any tissues present at all or a very small supply, so it’s a nice little extra.
This restaurant is also located in Huifu Donglu, just to the right of Tiger Prawn. It’s very popular but you can still get a table most of the time here, without waiting. The restaurants that are grouped up here next to each other, are a little bit higher class then the standard restaurants and therefor more expensive. There is also an Indonesian restaurant next door called Lombok, which wouldn’t be a bad choice neither for a tasty dinner.
Hot Basil Thai Cuisine has all the types of food you’d expect in a Thai restaurant. They have different kinds of noodle dishes, some Pad Thai and a selection of seafood. Most of the dishes are spiced up, which is how the Thai like to eat their meals.
The dishes get served with little pieces of krupuk, which are actually a type of crackers originating from the Indonesian cuisine. The pictures of the food below speak for themselves. It’s all very appetizing and there are plenty of dishes for vegetarians too. The vegetable dumplings are a good example of this, as well as many vegetarian noodle dishes. For the meat dishes you can choose pork, beef or chicken.
Stir-fried rice noodles with chili and chicken 38 RMB (4.80 EUR) Deep fried vegetable dumplings 35RMB (4.50 EUR)
This chain of restaurants can be found all throughout Guangzhou. There is also one of them on the same street as my apartment, so I’ve been visiting it a lot. They have very cheap food that starts at about 10 RMB.
There seem to be a lot of young people working at these type of restaurants, sometimes about 16 or 17 years old. An older guy always gets the task of making some fresh noodles, which is always fun to watch while waiting for your food.
They have a variety of noodle soups and rice or noodle meals with beef or mutton, vegetables or even baked potatoes. Vegetarian rice and noodle dishes are also on their menu. All of the food is of course halal. The different types of dishes are displayed on the walls. You can just point at a dish you like and most of the time they also have a menu with pictures and English text.
I like to go to this restaurant for some vegetarian rice in the afternoon. They also have dishes with shredded potatoes that I didn’t see many times before.
Shredded potatoes with rice and pepper 12 RMB (1.50 EUR) Noodles with baked potatoes & vegetables 15 RMB (1.90 EUR)
Mint Leaf is an Indian restaurant which is always a guarantee for delicious food. There are several Indian restaurants throughout Guangzhou, although sometimes you have to do a little searching to find one. Mint Leaf has a restaurant on Beijing Lu which is only about a 10 minute walk from my apartment. The dishes are obviously a little more expensive then the cheap restaurants out there, but still very affordable.
The chicken Masala here is very good and quite spicy too, as it should be. The chicken meat does contain quite a lot of bones though, which i’m not a big fan of. I like the Aloo Paratha (a wrap filled with vegetables) and Durion roti (wheat bread filled with butter) as a starter. Both of them are very appetizing.
I recently discovered this new restaurant which is located near Beijing Lu. It attracts mostly a young crowd and the staff itself is also quite young. I saw a picture on their door once for a cheap noodle soup with egg and sausage which seemed like a good lunch. When I looked at their menu, I found out that they have many good and cheap dinner options too, so I kept going here.
Many of the dishes served at Baidaguo consist of chicken and cost about 22 RMB. They seem to be specialized in fruit drinks and they also have many different types of dessert. It seems they offer cheap food with hopes of making a better profit on these side items.
The sweet and sour sauce that is served with some of the dishes here, is very delicious. They also have a sizzling plate with chicken and vegetables which is one of my favourites.
Noodle soup with sausages and egg 17 RMB (2.10 EUR) Chicken, sweet+sour sauce, pineapple & rice 22 RMB (2.75 EUR)
Sizzling chicken with rice & honey pepper sauce 23 RMB (3 EUR) Pangasius fillet with rice and corn sauce 21 RMB (2.60 EUR)
I’ve been going here a lot during my first days in Guangzhou, because this restaurant has a branch right across from my apartment building. They serve what Chinese people like to call fast food. When you walk in you will get a plate with rice and you get to walk along a display of different types of food, all ready to be eaten. You can just point at the food you like and they will throw it on your plate.
I normally pay about 15 RMB here for a plate of rice and 3 scoops of vegetables/meat. This is normally enough to fill me up. The food isn’t very fancy or spectacular but it’s a good value for money and tastes alright. You can also get some free water here at their water machine, which is always a nice little bonus.
As you walk along the display, the food keeps getting cheaper. The fish and meat is the most expensive, with 9 RMB (1.10 EUR) per scoop and the cheapest food available is beans in tomato sauce or a bowl of soup for 2 RMB (0.25 EUR).
My favourite food here is diced chicken and the baked potatoes, but they don’t always have it. Most of the available food stays the same throughout the week but they do make some minor changes here and there. They have a wide enough variety of food here that you could go 7 days a week and still compile a different dish everyday.
Café de Coral is the largest Chinese fast food restaurant group in the world. They started their business in 1969 in Hong Kong and have expanded to China where they are also very popular. The restaurant offers Chinese food, as well as Western food at a low price. This is a very good option around my living area to get a decent lunch.
Although the meals served here are of a high quality for a good price, the portions are not that big. The menu is kept quite simple with not that many different options. This makes it a little easier to order though, because sometimes the restaurants with large menus can make it harder to decide.
The price of the meals include a cup of coffee or you can get a fruit drink when you pay a little extra. Don’t expect to walk out of here completely filled up if you just take one of their lunch meals. They do have some larger meals too, priced between 30 and 40 RMB. One of them contains a New Zealand steak which looks very appetizing on the menu but I have yet to try it.
Macaroni soup, coffee, a sandwich & beef 23.50 RMB (3 EUR) Beef sandwich, 3 sausages & coffee 17.50 RMB (2.15 EUR)
Rice, chicken, vegetables, sauce & coffee 31 RMB (4 EUR) Spaghetti & sauce, vegetable omelet + coffee 17.50 RMB
This isn’t really a restaurant but I like this type of food a lot so I will mention it here anyway. I’ve been seeing a lot of food vendors on the streets around Haizhu Square always but was a little hesitant to buy from them. Some people say their food can be dirty because they make it on the streets. I don’t think this has to be true because they make their food out in the open where everyone can see them and it would be bad for business if they were to cook in an unhygienic way.
Many different kinds of food are being sold on the streets. They sell fresh juices here too, like freshly ground bamboo juice. This tastes surprisingly good. My favourite street food are the wraps filled with vegetables.
The wraps are made by putting some round shaped dough on a hot plate and adding pieces of cut vegetables to it. They will then heat it and wrap it up and cut away the outer parts of the wrap. They can fill you up quickly and the nearby park is a good place to enjoy those wraps. The wraps look a little better in real life then they look in the picture below though.
Wrap filled with vegetables & luncheon meat 4 RMB (0.50 EUR) Wrap filled with egg, a sausage & vegetables 4 RMB (0.50 EUR)
If you’re going to visit Guangzhou, food probably won’t be your biggest expense. You could go out to eat 3 times a day for as cheap as 45 RMB and still get quality food. If you like to try new kinds of food then you are also in the right place. There is a saying about Guangzhou that sums it up very well. It goes:
“Cantonese will eat anything in the sky but airplanes, anything in the sea but submarines and anything with four legs but the table”.
You can find restaurants in Guangzhou that sell about everything that lives in the sea and even insects are widely eaten around here. You can eat turtles, pigeons, scorpions and not so long ago there was even a restaurant fully dedicated to snake dishes. If you like your food a little less extreme then you can probably still find your favorite dish within a 100 meter range.