Over the years, most people thought that China had a single cuisine. What they didn’t know is that this country is too large with great geographical divisions and regional cuisine. Of course, to date, there are many cuisines that haven’t even been listed on the Chinese cuisine.
However, of the eight famous ones we have Zhejiang cuisine. The cuisines which are also commonly known as the Zhe cuisine is originally from Zhejiang province. The province is rich with beautiful natural resources.
What Is Zhejiang Cuisine?
As earlier stated, Zhejiang cuisine comes from Zhejiang province which is located on the eastern coastline of China. It’s known as the land of plenty and this is about a lot of fish found on the east part of the province.
The province further has hundreds of fish farms. On another side, you find the mountainous region which is on the Southwest side of the province. This is populous with great delicacies. Note that, the northern part of the province has many rivers crisscrossing its paths.
The History of Zhejiang Cuisine
History indicates that Zhejiang cuisine originated from hemudu culture during the Neolithic age. The history of the rich cuisine dates to 7000 years ago.
After the northern and southern dynasties, the regions of Zhejiang and Jiangsu were exempted from war. It’s during this time that the two kingdoms built the capital in Hangzhou which would later become the capital of Zhejiang province.
At that time, it was the capital city of the southern song dynasty. This led to the improvement of the economy as well as the innovation of Zhejiang cuisine. Dignitaries from the north and south moved into the province and thereby brought their different cooking techniques.
The cuisine saw massive growth with the development of over 280 meals at the time and the town was flooded with different luxurious restaurants. Additionally, food shops were spread across the streets.
Zhejiang Cuisine Styles
The cuisine here works in four different styles namely:
In this cooking style, the most important thing is the freshness and shape of the meal. It never employs complex methods of cooking neither does it require strong and bold flavors you have when making meals like the Sichuan cuisine meals.
They employ stir-frying method, braising, stewing and frying.
This cuisine delivers the real characteristic of Zhejiang cuisine where the meals are fresh and salty. It, like the Hangzhou cuisine, doesn’t use the complex cooking method since the aim is to produce fresh, juicy and tender meals.
The cuisine here is mostly from the sea, therefore, they make more seafood. They don’t even focus on a lot of seasoning since they are naturally full of flavors. In summary, it focuses on maintaining the flavors and concentrating on the deep colors.
This borrows the flavors of the southeast China. It has rich ingredients which include shrimps, poultry, bamboo shoots, beans among others. The characteristics of Shaoxing dishes is such that there are light and greasy but with fewer spices.
Here the Shaoxing wine is used for the cooking process. The meals are mostly salty, rich and tender but with a special fragrant.
- Wenzhou cuisine
These meals feature the seafood with a fresh taste. Their characteristics are such that it’s oily, clear and delicate.
Features of Consideration
- Uniquely cooked and presented food
Zhejiang is the richest province in the country which means the people here expect you to give them the best service. All the meals prepared here must have that extra touch when compared to the other meals.
This cuisine is neither greasy nor sour nor bland nor too sweet. It’s a uniquely balanced cuisine. Being referred to as the land of milk and honey, the province has some of the best chefs to produce the best meals.
- The raw materials
Since the cuisine was meant for the people of the imperial stature, the chefs made the cuisine from fresh ingredients that are fine looking. They further made sure they chose clean raw materials that are meant to fit the characteristic of the Zhejiang dish.
The ingredients chosen should make tender meals yet fresh and tasty.
- They will mostly cook seafood
If you are interested in original tasting seafood then this is the cuisine to try. The chefs here use their unique and easy cooking methods to keep the fish and all other aquatic products tender yet fresh.
Most of the meals in Zhejiang cuisine will boil your seafood with minimal seasoning and this will highlight the flavors of the meal. The region will cook all the different kinds of fish and sea veggies.
- They serve in small amounts
The cuisine is one of the few types that use small utensils for the service of the meal. The essence of these small dishes is a show of their wealthy nature. Mind you, the meals feature names of the natural and scenic beauties around the area.
- Pay attention to freshness
The major factor of concern for the people of Zhejiang is to make sure they keep the meals light and fresh. Moreover, to maintain the lightness of the flavors the meals use Shaoxing wine, vinegar, ginger and aromatic meals.
They further like to use the green onion for the amazing tastes. Notice that, unlike most other cuisines where the meals are spicy the Zhejiang cuisine aren’t at all spicy.
- The use of sweet desserts
It’s the nature of the province to make sweet confectioners and luckily, the wealthy people love sweets for dessert. Often, the desserts are made using sugar, beans, rice and wheat.
Notice that some parts of the province have wheat plantations which make it easy to make the desserts.
Methods of Cooking
The cuisine like many other cuisines across the country uses various method of meal preparation. Notice that, this region had visitors coming in from the various regions of the country. This influenced the cooking method with the greatest influencer being Fujian province.
The culture of Shanghai also had a great impact on the cuisine.
- Soak in brine
Although the cooking style is uncommon among other regions of the country, the people of Ningbo use it in the preparation of their meals. Ningbo region uses this method to prepare a few of their food. Note that, most of the dishes from the region appear salty.
It’s like the pickling method where you soak the meats in brine solution for hours then eat it. The salty crab is famously prepared in this method.
This is the common method of cooking in Zhejiang cuisine. This requires you to fry your meal fast. Use a little oil for the frying process. It, therefore, uses the hot pan and dry heat to quickly cook your veggies or meat
This is a common method of cooking in China. You begin by lightly frying the food then stewing it slowly for a few hours. This method of cooking releases the flavour while giving you the authentic tastes.
Note that, at first you cook the food over high temperature then you let it simmer at low temperature and in a pot.
This is mostly used to cook meat dishes among other ingredients. In this method, you cook your food in a liquid that will qualify as soup or sauce. The food is cooked for hours to tenderise it as well as unleash the authentic flavors.
This is your method of cooking where you use steam to make your meals. The food steamers often help to cook your food in the kitchen. You may also use the wok to steam your food if you need to.
This method of cooking is most preferred because it delivers food cooked with less oil, therefore. you consume less cholesterol.
The Zhejiang Meals
- West lake braised fish in vinegar
The province is popular for its rich cultural cuisines. One of them is the west lake braised fish which is one of the most famous dishes from this region. It has a rich history where people believe that there lived a young man in the west lake who was fishing for a living.
One time, he fell sick and his sister-in-law went to search for fish in the lake. She found one then brought it to cook it with vinegar and sugar then served him. This is what cured the man.
This dish was then given the name west lake braised fish in vinegar. Some people to date use it as a form of medicine for the sick. It’s prepared when you poach a whole fish then glaze it with sweet vinegar sauce.
The meal got its name from the large and beautiful lake that is in the city of Hangzhou. Notice that this meal is served on Chinese New Year as it’s one of the meals considered a lucky meal.
- Dongpo pork
Hangzhou is famous for being one of the rich cities in the country not just economically but also culturally. Long ago there lived a protestor of the system of governance who was sent to poverty by the then government.
He loved to make pork and since he still had a following and friends, he continued to eat his favorite meal. One time he had workers taking on errands at his place where he made them the braised pork. The meal was so delicious that they named it after him- Su Dong Po.
While this may be a tale, the dish is linked to SU. To date, it’s served in various restaurants and loved by many. But the secret to making it succulent and delicious is in slow cooking it for hours.
When you slow cook it, the meal absorbs more wine and soy sauce thus assuming a tender texture and aromatic flavour. It melts in your mouth and you can easily pick it with chopsticks.
The pork is cooked with the help of the Chinese five spice among other ingredients. Notice that, you will cook it in three different ways. The first is where you simmer it simply to remove all impurities thereby cook the meat partly
Next, braise your meats in your uncovered braise as this will concentrate the flavors to the meats. The third is where you cover the meat and let it simmer or stew for a longer period. For the best results, you ought to use both the dark and light soy sauces.
- Beggars chicken
This is a very popular chicken in China that most of the regions claim ownership to. However, the top chefs of the region agree that the chicken originated for Hangzhou. In fact, there are various stories relating to its invention.
The most popular one is where the beggar who was asking for food from the neighbourhood was so hungry that he stole a chicken. After stealing it, he realised that he had no utensils nor way to cook it so decided to improvise.
He wrapped his chicken in lotus leaves then packed it on clay and mud. He then placed it in a hole where he had already lit the fire. He then went ahead to bury it so that it can cook. After some hours, he dug the chicken only to find a tender and aromatic chicken.
He used this method of cooking to avoid smoke that would raise an alarm to his surrounding for having stolen the chicken. There are other tales where its said that the emperor stopped to dine with the beggar and loved the chicken.
From then on, the beggar began selling the chicken to the neighbours leading to the popularisation of the meal. Today, the meal is covered with lotus leaves and some pastry to maintain the moist nature and tenderise it.
- Longjing shrimp
This is another famous Hangzhou cuisine that is simple to make yet nutritious and delicious for the shrimp lovers. This is another signature dish from Long Jing that you should never miss when visiting Zhejiang province.
History indicates that the Longjing shrimp is from the emperor called Qianlong. He never wanted to be noticed by the people when he wanted to walk along the beach. Therefore, he dressed up as a tourist and took a walk along the beach.
When the rain came, he went to the tea grower’s residence where he was served tea which he greatly loved. After that, he left and went on taking the walk but he couldn’t go on as the lake became so beautiful after the rain.
He, therefore, took more time there that he forgot to go for dinner so he went to a small restaurant to order a meal. When the staffs discovered that they were serving the emperor they were so shocked that they accidentally put the Long Jing tea into the shrimps.
The emperor loved the blend and it became known as the Longjing tea with shrimp. It got so popular in the province. It features the shrimps, tea leaves and green onion among other ingredients.
- Duck Soup with Dried Bamboo Shoots
Like most other meals in Zhejiang province, this soup has a strong taste and it’s not greasy. The duck here has a crispy outer texture and tender flesh. It’s famous among the people of Hangzhou.
Notice that, the fragrant soup that is juicy comes from the duck. It also utilizes the fresh bamboo shoots to balance the flavour thus making it rich.
- Braised river Eel
This is one of the popular meals in the cuisine. It’s specifically from the Ningbo area. This is one of the many seafood and since there are many lakes surrounding Ningbo, you will easily access Eels.
People in this region consider eel as being the best kind that delivers a rich flavour and nutrients while being delicious. When cooking it, you should thoroughly steam it to make the skin lucid.
You then take the bone out before beginning the braising process in the pot. As you are cooking remember to shield the eels skin. Eel is a kind of elongated fish that lack the pelvic fins. They are found in the shallow water of the lake or sea.
For most people, it’s a surprise that anyone can eat the meats but they are eaten. The people of Ningbo enjoy the eels just like those in Shanghai.
- Fish Boiled with Three Kinds of Shreds
This is a traditional style of Wenzhou meal that is easy to cook although it appears complex from the name. You cut the fish into small pieces then you boil it with shreds of chicken, ham and wood mushroom.
This fish is tender yet smooth and it is usually served to your special guests and friends.
Where to Eat the Zhejiang Cuisine
There are many places to enjoy the cuisine however we mention two of our favorite places to visit.
- Kwei Mun Lung
8th floor, cloud nine mall 1018 changning lu
Every time you wish to eat the luscious dongpo pork, take a ride to kwei mun lung. You are sure to be given only the meal with a rich sauce and pungent aroma. You will remain licking your fingers
- Zhiwei guan
Address: No 83, Renhe road Shangcheng district.
The restaurant has a history of offering quality Zhejiang dishes. It was first a small restaurant that offered snacks although today it will offer almost every meal in the cuisine. It’s found in Hanzhou.