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A Gourmet Tour to Zhejiang
2006-02-09 08:50:42

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Any mention of Zhejiang, a famous province in Southeast China, brings to mind the beautiful West Lake in Hangzhou, Putuo Mountain – one of China's major Buddhist shrines – and Qian-dao-hu, the lake with a thousand islands. Its scenery has earned Zhejiang an international reputation as a fine tourist destination. But there is more to its appeal than charming scenery: Zhejiang also has a rich cultural heritage, which is noted in particular for its culinary traditions.
Zhejiang covers an area of over 100,000 square kilometres. Lying in a subtropical zone, it has a humid monsoon climate which has provided the province with beautiful scenery and an abundance of natural resources. It comes as no surprise then to learn that Zhejiang is often referred to as paradise on earth. However apart from the blessing of mother nature, man has also played his part; Zhejiang is a highly-developed tourist destination and its many historical sites attract visitor from around the world.

As for the province's famed food, Zhejiang cuisine is one of the eight major schools of cooking in China. Combining flavors from four of its principal cities – Hangzhou, Shaoxing, Ningbo and Wenzhou, Zhejiang food has such an enormous variety of dishes that you really need to stay for a while to have time to sample all of them.

If you are short on time, make sure you try West Lake Fish, which is one of Hangzhou's signature dishes. Most locals would agree that the best West Lake Fish in town is served up at the famous Lou-Wai-Lou Restaurant, where it is the chef's specialty. In fact, it is almost tradition that a trip to Hanzhou features at least one visit to Lou-Wai-Lou Restaurant. So renowned is this eatery by the lake that the late former Premier of China Zhou Enlai often invited foreign dignitaries to dine here and taste the famous local produce. And it's not hard to see why: after a pleasant stroll around picturesque West Lake, an intimate dinner by the water is just perfect.

The Restaurant has its own fishpond – which is actually a section of the West Lake. Freshwater fish are essential in preparing West Lake Fish. They are first cleaned and scaled, then boiled for a few minutes. The accompanying sauce is prepared by mixing rice wine, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and starch over medium-high heat until it thickens. The fish is removed carefully from the water and the hot sauce is poured over it. The delicious dish is then ready to eat.

The dish is simple to prepare yet glorious to taste. No salt or gourmet powder is used, yet it's still full of flavor. There is no oil or coloring, yet it's still a delight to the eyes. All in all, it is a rare treat for the palate.

Dong-po pork is another highly recommended dish served at Lou-Wai-Lou Restaurant. Named after the renowned ancient poet, Su Dongpo, the dish has a fascinating story. Around a thousand years ago, during the Song Dynasty, Su Dongpo was appointed chief official of Hangzhou. He ordered the West Lake dredged, and used the silt to build a causeway across it from north to south, which made traffic across the lake much easier for the locals. In honour of the distinguished poet, the causeway was named Su-di.

It's said that while the causeway was being built, Su Dongpo devised a new pork dish, which he served to all the workers. It became known as Dong-po pork, and is prepared by simmering small chunks of pork gently in soy sauce, yellow wine, ginger, sugar and scallions. Intricately served in individual clay bowls, the dish is not fatty, despite its appearance, and the meat is so tender that it virtually melts in your mouth.

Sightseeing in Hangzhou
West Lake     Lingyin Temple     Liuhe Pagoda     China Tea Museum


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