Get a taste of Hangzhou
As one of the eight great cuisines of China, Hangzhou dishes are noted for their seasonal ingredients, elaborate preparation, sophisticated cooking techniques, and refreshing taste. A trip to Hangzhou isn't complete without trying some of its specialty dishes. Here are a few must-try meals, each of which has an age-old story.
Dongpo Pork (red-braised pork belly)
Dongpo Pork was named after Song Dynasty (960-1279) poet and official, Su Dongpo. When Su was banished to Hangzhou, he initiated a thorough dredging of West Lake, which had great benefits for the locals. To express their gratitude, they gifted Su a lot of pork. Su added his own twist to the traditional cooking process of braised pork belly — adding yellow wine and stewing it on low heat. He distributed the dish to those who worked on the project and it became widely favored.
West Lake Carp in Vinegar Gravy
Legend has it that two brothers surnamed Song lived in Hangzhou. The elder brother was murdered by a local villain. In desperation and fear for his safety, the younger brother was forced into exile. During his farewell dinner, his recently widowed sister-in-law cooked a dish that was both sweet and sour, implying that the young Song should "not forget the sour amid the sweet". The younger brother later returned to Hangzhou as a high-ranking official, avenged his brother's murder and sought out his sister-in-law. Since then, West Lake Carp in Vinegar Gravy has been handed down from generation to generation.
Sister Song's Fish Soup
During the Song Dynasty, a woman nicknamed Sister Song settled down alongside West Lake and made a living selling fish soup. During a trip to West Lake, Emperor Gaozong, the founding emperor of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), tasted her fish soup and spoke very highly of it. The soup's reputation spread far and wide, and it became a calling card for the city.
Sauteed Shrimps with Longjing Tea
The story of this dish relates to the Emperor Qianlong of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). On an excursion to Hangzhou, one of the emperor's chefs accidentally dropped Longjing tea leaves into the sauteed shrimp. The lingering fragrance of the tea combined with the divine texture of the shrimp won the emperor over and a classic Hangzhou dish was born.