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What to eat

Food & Drink / What to eat

Top 10 must-try Hangzhou dishes

By Minjun Xu

August 15

Hangzhou food, also called Hangbang Cai in Chinese, is the most famous branch of Zhejiang cuisine.

Hangzhou food, also called Hangbang Cai in Chinese, is the most famous branch of Zhejiang cuisine.

Known for its delicate taste and complicated cooking methods, Hangzhou cuisine boasts exquisite fish and seafood dishes. Freshwater fish are caught from the ever-impressive West Lake and ocean-dwellers trawled in the nearby East China Sea. With so much fresh seafood, who would have thought Hangzhou would become famous for its pork and noodles too?

1. West Lake fish in Sweet and Sour Sauce 西湖醋鱼

West Lake fish in sweet and sour sauce [Image Credit: zjol.com.cn]
West Lake fish in sweet and sour sauce [Image Credit: zjol.com.cn]
The fish must be caught specifically from West Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Vinegar and sugar are mixed to make the starchy sweet and sour sauce.

Louwailou (楼外楼), one of the most traditional restaurants in Hangzhou, is a great place to try this dish.

2. Stir Fried Prawns with Longjing Tea 龙井虾仁

Stir Fried Prawns with LongjingTea [Image Credit: zjol.com.cn]
Stir Fried Prawns with LongjingTea [Image Credit: zjol.com.cn]
Tea’s not just for drinking at breakfast in Hangzhou. One of the city’s most famous dishes includes tea leaves as an ingredient, which are stir-fried with prawns. Longjing tea, a tea that must be grown in the West Lake area around Hangzhou to be authentic, is known for its high quality and alleged health benefits. Because of the occasionally high price tag, a lot of tea marketed as Longjing tea is not actually that — so be wary.

3. Dongpo Pork 东坡肉

Dongpo Pork [Image Credit: zjol.com.cn]
Dongpo Pork [Image Credit: zjol.com.cn]
Named after renowned poet Su Dongpo of the Song Dynasty, Dongpo Pork consists of two-inch by two-inch pork cubes with roughly equal fat to meat ratios. Legend says Su Dongpo improved the traditional braising process by adding Huangjiu (黄酒), a Chinese wine which contains much less alcohol than Baijiu.

4. Pian Er Chuan Noodles 片儿川

Pian Er Chuan Noodles [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Liu Jianhua]
Pian Er Chuan Noodles [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Liu Jianhua]
Pian Er Chuan noodles are made with preserved vegetables, sliced pork, and bamboo shoots in soup. Hangzhou’s best-known noodle dish, they make an appearance in the second season of the famous documentary television series A Bite of China (舌尖上的中国).

There are two restaurants in Hangzhou famous for their Pian  Er Chuan noodles: Kuiyuan Guan (奎元馆) and Huijuan Noodle Restaurant (慧娟面馆).

5. Cat Ear Noodles 猫耳朵

Cat-ear Shaped Noodles [Image Credit: zjol.com.cn]
Cat-ear Shaped Noodles [Image Credit: zjol.com.cn]
Don’t worry, they’re not real cat ears! The cat-ear shaped noodles have been popular for centuries across China and have different cooking methods. Hangzhou’s recipe includes minced chicken, ham, mushrooms and scallops.

Zhiwei Guan (知味观) is a time-honored spot for this dish.

6. Dingsheng Rice Cakes 定胜糕

Dingsheng Rice Cake [Image Credit: zjol.com.cn]
Dingsheng Rice Cake [Image Credit: zjol.com.cn]
Dingsheng Rice Cakes, which include a pun on the Chinese word for “invincibility” in their name, are a dessert with a long history. Legend says they were originally made to encourage soldiers during the Southern Song Dynasty. They are stuffed with red bean paste, which is very sweet.

7. Shallot Stuffed Pancake 葱包桧

[Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Liu Jianhua]
[Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Liu Jianhua]
The Shallot Stuffed Pancake, also called Congbaohui (葱包桧), is another special Hangzhou snack that figures in the history of the Southern Song Dynasty. Made from a fried shallot-and-dough stick wrapped in a pancake, they supposedly represented the people’s dislike of Qing Hui, a notorious chancellor in the Southern Song Dynasty.

In the traditional method, sweet bean sauce is added to the pancake during preparation. However, modern restaurants generally have dipping sauces on the side.

8. Hangzhou-Style Xiaolongbao 杭州小笼包

Hangzhou-style Xiaolongbao [Image Credit: zjol.com.cn]
Hangzhou-style Xiaolongbao [Image Credit: zjol.com.cn]
Hangzhou-Style Xiaolongbao evolved from Kaifeng soup dumplings and has been a popular snack south of the Yangtze River ever since the Southern Song Dynasty. The use of unleavened dough makes their skin smooth and thin.

Many Xiaolongbao are filled with hot soup, so don’t burn yourself.

9. Sautéed Eel and Prawns Noodles虾爆鳝面

Sautéed Eel and Prawns Noodles [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Liu Jianhua]
Sautéed Eel and Prawns Noodles [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Liu Jianhua]
The Sautéed Eel and Prawns Noodles is made from sliced eel and sautéed with live river prawns. Boiled together with the eel and prawn sauce, the noodles taste super smooth and umami. Traditional Hangzhou restaurants like Kuiyuan Guan and Huijuan Noodle Restaurant are the best places to try this unique dish.

10. Steamed Lotus Root Stuffed with Sweet Sticky Rice 桂花糖糯米藕

Steamd Lotus Root Stuffed with Sweet Sticky Rice [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Liu Jianhua]
Steamd Lotus Root Stuffed with Sweet Sticky Rice [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Liu Jianhua]
Steamed, stuffed lotus roots are a popular dessert south of the Yangtze River. Hangzhou’s special twist is to add sweet scented osmanthus and to pick the roots directly from West Lake.

 

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