Hangzhou cooking is currently one of the most popular and fashionable styles of cooking throughout China and especially in neighboring Shanghai. A wealth of "Hangzhou" inspired restaurants have shot up throughout the country and the Hangzhou cuisine has been elevated to a superior status.
Hangzhou cooking is closely related to the local culture and characterized by natural flavor, beautiful presentation and a light and palatable taste. Dishes and pastries which would have once been served on pleasure boats sailing up and down the lake remain the main staple of the Hangzhou diet and recipes here usually contain a great deal of seafood including fish, shrimp, crab and oyster.
Any dining experience in Hangzhou should include at least a few of the following local specialties: Beggar's chicken (an entire chicken cooked in a ball of mud), West Lake fish (vinegar coated fish from the lake) and braised pork and stewed shelled shrimp cooked in Longjing tea.
There are some good restaurants in Hangzhou serving up this cuisine in nice settings and with style. Perhaps the best place is the Louwailou restaurant on Solitary Island, but there are other places dotted around. Late at night (ie. after 10pm) the area around Hangzhou's Fish Market really comes to life.
This market is tucked just behind the lake on Yanan Lu. It is a fun area and bursting with life. The fish is thrown out of the nets in front of the restaurants round here and diners can hand pick what they want to eat! It is very fresh and usually tasty and there is a really local and lively atmosphere about this place. Don't worry if you don't speak Chinese- just point instead! Also worth checking out are the Buffets that many of the larger hotels do. The one in The Shangri- La is particularly good.
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