Zhejiang cuisine is one of the eight famous regional cuisines in China, comprising local specialties of Hanzhou, Ningbo, and Shaoxing. The cuisine wins its reputation for freshness, tenderness, softness, and smoothness of its dishes with mellow fragrance. Hangzhou Cuisine is the most famous one of the three. It is noted for choice of fine ingredients, elaborate preparation, refreshing taste and varying techniques of cooking, such as sautéing, stewing, and stir-and-deep-frying.
Hangzhou-style cuisine covers a wide variety of fancies, primarily made of the native products in Hangzhou, and often associated with the famous West Lake. Some of the typical dishes are: West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy, Dongpo Pork, Beggar’s Chicken, Longjing Shrimp, Aunt Song’s Fish Soup and West Lake Water Shield Soup. Reminiscent of the romantic scenery around Hangzhou, these dishes are delicate, tender, refreshing and crisp. For instance, the West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy, in which a fresh alive grass carp from the West Lake is cut in half from head to tail, delicately poached and then served eyes-up and topped with a sharp sweet and sour, vinegar-based sauce. This dish integrates delicious tastes, with tender fish meat like crabmeat.
Many famous dishes have long history and many legends associated with them, even the snack such as the renowned YouZhaHui (fried Hui). It is said in the later of Song Dynasity, after the national hero Yue Fei was murdered by the Big traitor Qin Hui and his wife, everyone in Hangzhou hated Qin Hui greatly. There once a little fried pasta shop located at the Wangxian Bridge, the owner of which each day saw the traitor Qin Hui passing by in front of the shop. Possessed by fumigation, one day, he tweaked the pasta into a shape of human and put it into oil, grumbling while frying it: " fried Qin Hui, deep-fried Qin Hui!" Someone asked him what to sell? Offhand he said: "fried hui." Since then it was named.
A well-rounded Hangzhou meal should certainly include a measure of Shaoxing wine (yellow rice wine) that is a crucial ingredient in the cuisine, flavoring many classic dishes like Dongpo Pork. Made of glutinous rice and spring water, the wine has a rich flavor with a sweet edge and an alcohol content of around 18 percent, both of which inspired many a great Tang and Song poet (including outspoken lover Su Dongpo) to wax lyrical. Dongpo Pork is made by pan-frying and then red cooking pork belly. The mouth feel is oily but not greasy, crisp but not smashed, plus mellow juice, often warm with the fragrance of wine, making it particularly pleasant on a cold evening.
After developing in other cities for many years, Hangzhou restaurants have absorbed culinary styles of various places. In those branch restaurants opened in almost every big city, you can enjoy the same nice food far away from the beautiful West Lake. Apart from the popular traditional dishes, those restaurants have created many other tasty dishes to satisfy people’s demands.