Zhejiang Cuisine: Drawing on the Cooking Styles of Hangzhou, Ningbo, and Shaoxing

If Suzhou is known for classical gardens, canals, fine silks, and beautiful women, Hangzhou has a different set of attributes.

With West Lake at its heart, it is surrounded by mountains on three sides, embodying the very essence of a traditional Chinese landscape painting. Pagodas and temples dot the landscape. Marco Polo was so enchanted by the place when he visited it in the 13th century that he described it as “beyond dispute, the finest and noblest [city] in the world”.

And then there is the food.

Zhejiang cuisine, known as Zhe Cai (浙菜) in Putonghua, draws on the cooking styles of Hangzhou, Ningbo and Shaoxing. Bamboo shoots, poultry, and fresh water fish are favoured ingredients.

There are many types of both hot and cold dim sum. Some of the most popular dishes include Dong Po Pork, Beggar’s Chicken, and West Lake Fish Cooked in Vinegar. Flavours tend to be savory.

“Zhe cuisine is fragrant, crispy, and fresh,” says Ng Wing-kun, executive Chinese chef at the Futian Shangri-La, Shenzhen, China.

“Fish and prawns are favoured.” The cuisines of Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces are often lumped together as Jiangnan (江南) Cuisine. This appellation is also sometimes also used to include the cooking styles of the other major cities in the region: Changzhou, Nanjing, Ningbo, Shanghai, Shaoxing, and Wuxi.

Jiangnan cuisine is very popular in Shanghai, and eateries outside the mainland serving it often position themselves as Shanghainese. This probably has more to do with the city’s fame than anything else.

Among food experts, however, Shanghainese food – while very, very tasty! – was always considered to be rather unpretentious and – dare we say it? – a bit “working class”.

At least that was how a chef I interviewed in Shanghai a couple of years ago put it. So Shanghainese cuisine did not rank among China’s Eight Great Cuisines.

Interestingly enough, the same holds true for the nation’s capital, Beijing.

Famous Chef from Jiangnan

We had some of the yummiest Chinese food we’ve ever sampled at this trendy new eatery, located in the spanking new Holiday Plaza across the street from the Crowne Plaza Shenzhen and the Window of the World amusement park.

With an extensive menu, there is something for every taste and budget, running from Jiangnan style dim sum, which starts at about ¥10 per plate, and runs all the way up to ¥500-plus for the South African abalone.

The shizi tou (lion’s head) and dong po pork are sublime. One of the few stand-alone Chinese restaurants in Shenzhen accepting major international credit cards. The menu has pictures, but no English translations.

Worth the trip from Hong Kong!

Holiday Plaza, 3rd Floor, Shops 4 & 5, 9028-1 Shen Nan Boulevard, Nan Shan District, Shenzhen Tel: (755) 8981 9988 Cuisine: Zhejiang (Zhe) Specialties: Jiangnan style noodles as well as hot and cold dim sum Average food cost: ¥-¥¥¥¥ Opening hours: 11am – 3 pm (3.30 pm Saturday and Sunday); 5 pm – 10 pm

Price Guide ¥ – most dishes under ¥50 ¥¥ – most dishes under ¥100 ¥¥¥ – most dishes under ¥150 ¥¥¥¥ – many dishes/main courses more than ¥150

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