Hangzhou Cuisine has two branches – Lake Cuisine and City Cuisine . The former focuses on fish, shrimp and vegetables which were mainly cooked for officials, businessmen and distinguished personages in ancient times. The later gives priority to domestic animals and fowls, usually for citizen themselves. But now, you could taste the two categories at the same time.
Other than the sweet Suzhou Cuisine, thick Shanghai Cuisine and spicy Sichuan Cuisine, Hangzhou food features in freshness and lightness. Major cooking techniques of Hangzhou Food is stir-frying, steaming and pot-roasting. While cooking Hangzhou Cuisine, the cookers always avoid using spicy seasoning to keep its original taste and flavor.
Eating in Hangzhou
*West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy
West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy is a signature dish of Hangzhou. There goes a story of the origin of West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy in Hangzhou. It is said that there was a poor fisherman who lived from hand to mouth near West Lake. One day, he got silk seriously but he couldn’t go to the doctor for the lack of money. His sister-in-law caught a fish and cooked with only vinegar and sugar. Magically, the sick man recovered soon after eating the fish. Later, this dish became popular among Hangzhou Restaurant. The major material of this dish is grass carp which enjoys high nutritive value. Being easily cooked and without much seasonings, West Lake Fish Vinegar Gravy shows slippery gravy, sour aroma and tender meat.
*Braised Dongpo Pork
Braised Dongpo Pork can be attributed to Su Dongpo, a great litterateur in North Song Dynasty. When he was an official in Xuzhou, he built the bridges and roads for local people. The citizens gave him much pork to show their thanks. As Su Dongpo received these gifts, he cooked them and distributed to the citizen again. Moved by Su Dongpo, people called this braised pork as Dongpo Pork. Today, Braised Dongpo Pork developed better and its unique flavor make people hard to forget. Even a short glimpse of bright-colored Braised Dongpo Pork will make your mouth watering. With half fat and half lean of the pork braised by the mixture of water and alcohol, it smell aromatic and tastes tender enough to dissolve immediately in your mouth. The knack of cooking Braise Dongpo Pork is slow fire, less water and more alcohol.
*Fried Shrimps with Long Jing Tea
Fried Shrimps with Long Jing Tea is a special flavor of Hangzhou which is made up of shrimp meat and tea. The shrimp meat is fried with lard, so it is oily and bright but never greasy. Using the perfect tea plucked before Tomb-sweeping Day (seldom exposed to insects), you can fully enjoy the wonderful mouthfeel of this dish. With rose-white shrimp meat and emerald-green tea, this dish is in good-looking and coordinated color. Taking a little bite, smooth and chewy meat with slight scent of tea will leave you a faint fragrance lingering in your mouth. In fact, you could only eat authentic Fried Shrimps with Long Jing Tea in Hangzhou because the best Long Jing Tea is only grown in Hangzhou.
Long long ago, there was a beggar wandered to Hangzhou. Suffering from hunger and coldness, he fell in a faint. His fellow suffer stole a chicken for him. Without pot and stove, his fellow wrapped the chicken with earth and roasted it over the fire. About two hours later, they striped the earth off and found the chicken smelt attracting and tasted delicious. As this story came to a chef in a restaurant, he improved the cooking technique and succeeded in making notable Beggars’ Chicken. Today, the chicken is wrapped with bamboo reel shell, lotus leave first and special mud then. The duration and degree of heating is quite important to cook Beggars’ Chicken well. While Beggars’ Chicken done, the delicate fragrance of chicken greets the nostril and the meat is soft and even the bones are tender.
Featured Hangzhou Snacks
*Hangzhou Streamed Bun
Streamed Bun is a kind of traditional stuffed bun popular in Hangzhou, Shanghai, Changzhou, Wuxi, and other cities in the south reaches of the Yangtze River. However, Streamed Bun in different places has different flavor and characteristics. Hangzhou Streamed Bun features in white and thin skin made by flour, plump fillings with lean pork and tasty soup. The skin is elastic but not sticks to your teeth. A fresh Hangzhou Streamed Bun is half-transparent and attracts you to have a bite.
*West Lake Lotus Root Powder
West Lake Lotus Root Powder stands out among various Hangzhou snacks not only for its unique flavor but also for its rich nutrient content. Hangzhou once offered West Lake Lotus Root as tribute to the imperial palace. The lotus root powder is in thin sheet and rose color. Mix the powder with a little water and then dilute it with hot water. The soup with slender transparency tastes fresh and sweet. In addition, it is heathy for children, elders and patients.
Xingfushuang in Chinese, Double Happiness is a kind of pastry created by Zhiwei Guan – a famed restaurant in Hangzhou. It gets such a name because it is always served by doubles which mean happiness and love. Major ingredients of sweetened bean paste and dried fruit filling like nut, candied date, grape, ivy gourd etc. are wrapped with superior flour and molded in a special shape. After streamed, the pastry enjoys soft texture and sweet fragrance.
Apart from Hangzhou Streamed Bun, West Lake Lotus Root Power and Double Happiness, there are also other countless snacks, like Pianchuaner Noodles– featured in fresh potherb mustard and bamboo shoots, 'Ears of Cat' – dough pieces looking like the ears of Cat, Pastry Roll – sweet dough cake recorded in ancient books... Never miss these snacks in the world.
Where to Eat in Hangzhou
Here are some recommended restaurants in Hangzhou for your reference:
*Lou Wai Lou
Lou Wai Lou Restaurant is located at the bank of West Lake and foot of Gushan Mountain. In this restaurant, you get a precious opportunity to enjoy the scenery and food at the same time. The rooms in Lou Wai Lou are fine-designed with great facilities. It goes like a convention that when the guests come, the owner will treat them in Lou Wai Lou. Specialties of this restaurants are West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy, Fried Shrimps with Long Jing Tea Beggars’ Chicken, Songsao’s Fish Soup etc.
The location of Lou Wai Lou is No. 30, Gushan Road, Xihu District (close to Moon over the Peaceful Lake)
Grandma's Home is attracted large amounts of customers with its first-rate home cooking at reasonable price. You can not only enjoy the tasty Hangzhou food in diverse types and enough amounts, but also feel the enthusiasm and kindness of the smiling servants. Some of the specialties are Grandma's Braise Pork, Xiangchi Fish Head, Tea-flavored Chicken etc. Here is the Location: No. 6, Mateng Road, Xihu District.
First built at 1913, Zhiwei Guan enjoys a history of over 100 years. At first, it was a small restaurant focusing on local snacks and Hangzhou dishes. Nowadays, it has developed into one of the most famous restaurants in Hangzhou for its specialities such as Braised Dongpo Pork and Snacks like "Ears of Cat", Double Happiness, noodles, Hangzhou Streamed Buns etc. The location of Zhiwei Guan is No. 83, Renhe Road, Shangcheng District.
More Recommended Food Streets
*Hefang Street and South Song Imperial Street
Hefang Street and South Song Imperial Street, close to each other, both are famed ancient streets which can be traced back to South Song Dynasty. Known as a paradise of food, they attract enough tourists with authentic local snacks and traditional snacks from different corners in China. What makes Hefang Street distinctive from other snack streets is that you can satisfy your taste bud as well as your feast your eyes. There are also rich Hangzhou cultures you can explore by visiting traditional Chinese medicine halls, interesting museums, celebrities' former residence etc. Exquisite arts in Hefang Street will also give you a visual treasure.
Hedong Road, especially at night is a good choice of rich Zhejiang Food in that there are various restaurants and canteens with various dishes and snacks. Apart from Zhejiang food including amazing Wenzhou seafood, there are also Sichuan Cuisine, Hunan Cuisine, Xinjiang Specialties and so on. The night market of Hedong Road is divided into north section and south section. The restaurants in north section enjoy more elegant and peaceful environment (always closed around 2:00 am). The south section has more roadside food stalls with lively atmosphere. These stalls are always closed at around 4:00 am and some stalls are 24 hours service.
*Shenglihe Food Street
Shenglihe Food Street, also called Gushui Street and located in the Gongshu District of Hangzhou, is a well-planed food street constructed with an antique style. It is divided into four parts with four different functions - Handicrafts Zone, Smoke-free Barbecue Zone, Specialties Zone and Drinking Zone. Most stores in Handicrafts Zone and Smoke-free Barbecue Zone are removable carts equipped with folding tables and chairs. Combined with dining, tourism, leisure and shopping, Shenglihe Food Street has become one of the most popular streets in Hangzhou. If you visit Shenglihe Food Street, Sauteed Shrimps is a must-try.