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How does Hangzhou Food taste? What to Eat in Hangzhou? Where to Eat in Hangzhou? This guide will introduce you everything about Hangzhou Food and Cuisine, including the history, features, famous dishes and snacks, and a list of best restaurants in Hangzhou!
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• Chinese：杭州菜 Pinyin: háng zhōu cài
Hangzhou Cuisine (Hang Bang Cai in Chinese) is an important branch of Zhejiang Cuisine which is one of the Eight Famous Cuisines in China. The history of Hangzhou Cuisine could date back to over 1,000 years ago, in South Song Dynasty when Hangzhou is the prosperous capital city packed with best chefs from all corners of China. These talented gourmets took advantage of local ingredients and created various Hangzhou-style dishes. The eminent litterateur Su Dongpo once said that even the most delicious food in the world could not compare with tasty Hangzhou Food.
With accumulative efforts and exploration, Hangzhou Cuisine became quite popular. What’s more, each of the most famous dishes has its own story or culture. If you visit Hangzhou, you can’t miss this big gustatory feast.
Hangzhou Cuisine has two branches – Lake Cuisine (湖上帮) and City Cuisine (城里帮). 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.
Braised Dongpo Pork (东坡肉)
Hangzhou Streamed Bun (杭州小笼包)
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 sick 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 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 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.
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 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 (片川儿)– featured in fresh potherb mustard and bamboo shoots, Ears of Cat (猫耳朵) – dough pieces looking like the ears of Cat, Pastry Roll (酥油饼) – sweet dough cake recorded in ancient books... Never miss these snacks in the world.
West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy
Oil but not greasy Braise Dongpo Pork
Fried Shrimps with Long Jing Tea
The best places to savor Hangzhou dishes and snacks are the West Lake Scenic Area, Hefang Street, South Song Imperial Street, Hedong Road, and Shenglihe Food Street.
The whole West Lake Scenic Area is extremely large. There are many great restaurants opened. What makes the restaurants at West Lake Scenic Area stand out is their unbeatable close distance to the beautiful sceneries of the West Lake. You can find restaurants near Lingyin Temple, Leifeng Pagoda, Longjing tea Plantation and so on. Some of the restaurants are right by the lake, allowing you to admire the picturesque lake views while dinning.
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 in service 24 hours.
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.
Lou Wai Lou Restaurant by the West Lake
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 gusts come, the owner will treat them in Lou Wai Lou.
Specialties: West Lake Fish in Vinegar Gravy, Fried Shrimps with Long Jing Tea Beggars' Chicken, Songsao's Fish Soup etc.
Location: 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.
Specialties: Grandma's Braise Pork, Xiangchi Fish Head, Tea-flavored Chicken etc.
Location: No. 6, Mateng Road, Xihu District
First built at 1913, Zhiwei Guan enjoys a history of over 80 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 restaurant in Hangzhou.
Specialties: Braised Dongpo Pork and Snacks like Ears of Cat, Double Happiness, noodles, Hangzhou Streamed Buns etc.
Location:No. 83, Renhe Road, Shangcheng District
The Out-look of Lou Wai Lou
Grandma's Home with Warm Decoration
Interested in Hangzhou Cuisine and unsatisfied with just eating? Hangzhou Cuisine Museum is waiting for your deeper discovery. Located in the south part of West Lake (3.5 km away from Prince Bay Park), Hangzhou Cuisine Museum has 10 exhibition areas displaying 20 history scenes from which you could learn about the development and inheritance of Hangzhou Cuisine. In Experience Zone, it is available to watch the cooking performance and cooking competition sometimes. If you are lucky enough to encounter some big days of Hangzhou Cuisine Museum, you can also make Hangzhou Cuisine by yourselves in Hanghzou Cuisine Museum. There are restaurants operated by Hangzhou Cuisine Museum, where you could try the most delicate Hangzhou dishes with perfect color, aroma, and flavor.
Delicate Dishes in the Restaurants of Hangzhou Cuisine Museum
Things to Do in Hangzhou: West Lake, Lingyin Temple, Longjing tea Plantation, Hefang Street, Xixi National Wetland Park, China National Tea Museum, China National Silk Museum…
How to Get to Hangzhou: International flights from Singapore (5 hrs.), Seoul (6.5 hrs.), etc., domestic flights from Guangzhou (2 hrs.), Beijing (2 hrs.), etc., or high speed trains from Shanghai (1~2 hrs.), Suzhou (1.5~3 hrs.), Huangshan (1.5~2 hrs.), etc.
Best Time to Visit Hangzhou: all year around
Usually, visitors spend 2 days around to enjoy a classic Hangzhou tour to visit the West Lake Scenic Area, including the amazing West Lake, Lingyin Temple, Longjing Tea Plantations, etc. If you want an in-depth Hangzhou tour, you can also pay another half day or so to visit Xixi National Wetland Park, one day around to Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, or one day or so to Thousand Islands Lake, etc. Check all Hangzhou Tours >>
Also, you can spend 1 day to take a side trip to the nearby water towns like Wuzhen and Xitang in Jiaxing, 2~3 days to Putuoshan - one of the four sacred Buddhist Mountains in China, or 1 day to the popular Nanxun Old Town in Huzhou. Check more about Zhejiang Tours >>
Besides, compared with just travelling Hangzhou, most of the visitors prefer to travel the metropolis Shanghai, Suzhou Gardens and Hangzhou Lakes in One Go! Such an amazing tour will take 5~6 days.
Some visitors also ride a high speed train to Huangshan to visit the world-famous Yellow Mountain. A Hangzhou Huangshan tour needs about 5 days around.
Have your preferences? Please feel free to tell us your likes and let our professional travel consultants customize a personal tour for you!
Since 2012, we China Discovery have helped numerous customers to visit Hangzhou and surroundings. With our fully-inclusive private tour packages, all of our customers enjoyed their trips to the West Lake, Lingyin Temple, etc. Some of them kindly shared their precious photos and stories about their Hangzhou journey, just get inspired now.
"Impression Show is a must see when visiting Hangzhou…" - shared by Nguyen (Read her entire travel story: The Pursuit of Natural Beauty with the Beloved one - 14 Days Beautiful China Exploring Tour)
"This last night in Hangzhou led us to explore a different side of West Lake, vastly changing our erstwhile bland impression of the famed tourist site…" - shared by CS from Singapore (Read her entire travel story: Delightful Journey to Poetic Jiangnan Area)
Besides the wonderful travel stories, many customers who visited Hangzhou with China Discovery also send us their first-hand feedbacks about their trip, feel free to read the Hangzhou Reviews and learn what they say about their experience. If you want to start your Hangzhou tour now, don't hesitate to contact us.
Delicious Hangzhou food is one of the highlights of Hangzhou City, but not the all. The West Lake, Lingyin Temple, There are so many things to do and see in this “Ice City”. To better plan your Hangzhou tour, you could check the following useful articles to get inspired, including best visit time, transportation, accommodation, map, etc.
Nourished by the five thousand years' history and multiple nations and regions in the vast land, China's food culture is more than what words can describe. Rooted in traditional Chinese philosophy, like Yin-Yang and Five Element and Confucianism, Chinese cuisine is beyond the food itself but an artwork of the creative minds. Under the guidance of Traditional Chinese Medicine, most of the Chinese cuisines are healthy and nutritious, pursuing to maintain people's health, and even help the patients get healed.
Are you wondering about Chinese cooking process? Is that hard? around 100 cooking techniques have been formed over the development of Chinese food culture. The diverse cooking techniques show the wisdom of Chinese people and also help a lot on the sustainable development and reformation of the Chinese cuisines.
To enjoy the authentic Chinese flavour in a right way, Chinese dining etiquette plays a rather important role in Chinese food culture. Getting to know the Chinese etiquette will not only show one's good self-cultivation and manners, but also help your understand the culture deeply and avoid making taboos accidentally to behave offensively to your Chinese host.
Start planning your tailor-made holiday to China by contacting one of our specialists. Once enquired, you’ll get a response within 0.5~23.5 hours.Customize a Trip
[Important] Travel News for Expats: China travel is reopening now! Travel with China Discovery and learn about where to visit & requirements for each destination! Read Details >