Nat­u­ral re­treat calls visi­tors for easy sum­mer

Nes­tled in moun­tains, charm­ing Mo­gan­shan of­fers plenty of good eats as well as a nat­u­ral re­treat. Xu Xiaomin in Shang­hai re­ports.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - Contact the writer at xux­i­aomin@chi­

Mo­gan­shan, a moun­tain­ous area in De­qing, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, boasts bam­boo forests, tea gar­dens, streams, ar­chi­tec­ture from the early 20th cen­tury and bou­tique ho­tels and hos­tels. It is a pop­u­lar va­ca­tion spot for Shang­hai peo­ple to avoid sum­mer heat.

Apart from gifts from na­ture, the Xanadu-like Mo­gan­shan also of­fers nice food op­tions. Thanks to the pleas­ant cli­mate and geo­graphic con­di­tions, the place is per­fect for grow­ing veg­eta­bles, and al­most ev­ery farmer raises free-range chick­ens. That means fresh and good-qual­ity food in­gre­di­ents are guar­an­teed through out the year.

To me, a good day in Mo­gan­shan al­ways starts with a lo­cal­style break­fast in the fresh air.

In Ring­ing Heights, a small four-room ho­tel opened by a young cou­ple from Shang­hai, owner Jiang Cang jing and his wife pre­pare break­fast by them­selves: steamed sweet pota­toes and corn are must-haves in this sea­son. The corn is sticky, chewy and a lit­tle sweet — a lot tastier than corn I bought in the high­end su­per­mar­ket in Shang­hai.

The cou­ple also grows green veg­eta­bles in a s mall field be­hind the ho­tel and makes green-leaf salad with sea­sonal fruits and toma­toes. To­gether with a bowl of hot con­gee, it forms a per­fect break­fast for both Chi­nese and West­ern din­ers. What served the con­gee well: the home­made pre­served veg­etable that l ooks oily and black but tastes re­ally good.

The pre­served veg­etable, sim­ply called xi­an­cai (salty veg­etable), is a pop­u­lar side dish in lo­cal kitchens through­out the year. Highly rec­om­mended is the noo­dle soup topped with the salty greens.

In Yu­cun, a small town on the way up the moun­tain, there are sev­eral long-es­tab­lished res­tau­rants such as Yu­cun Old Res­tau­rant and Yu­cun Old Noo­dle Res­tau­rant run by lo­cal farm­ers.

Yao Xao­qin, the owner and chef of the noo­dle res­tau­rant, serves the best noo­dle I have tasted in Mo­gan­shan. She adds fresh green beans and bean curd and only a small amount of minced pork into the tra­di­tional pre­served-veg­etable noo­dle soup, which tastes ex­tremely sa­vory. If you like a light taste, you might re­mind Aun­tie Yao to put in less of the salty veg­etable. The price is also a sur­prise: 9 yuan ($1.50).

Al­most all the ho­tels, no mat­ter how small, of­fer meals, some with­out a menu like Ring­ing Heights. What is served de­pends on what the wet mar­ket of­fers on the day and what grows in the ho­tel’s field.

Lu Hua, the self-taught chef of Ring­ing Heights, is good at Mo­gan­shan-style home cook­ing, which is quite sim­i­lar to Shang­hai cui­sine but less sweet. It em­pha­sizes fresh in­gre­di­ents.

Her sig­na­ture stewed lake fish with soy­bean sauce has a per­fect bal­ance of fla­vor: With the ad­di­tion of a lit­tle lo­cal rice wine, the fish wears a spe­cial fra­grance and is smooth and ten­der. Lu’s chicken soup, with­out any ad­di­tional in­gre­di­ents but chicken and shal- lots, high­lights the fla­vor of the chicken and fea­tures a clean and light taste.

Yu­cun, now a din­ing hub in the Mo­gan­shan area, of­fers more va­ri­ety in drinks and din­ing. The re­cently opened bou­tique ho­tel, Lost Villa, catches my eye im­me­di­ately with its sim­ple look. Its res­tau­rant called Wilds presents a lux­u­ri­ous fu­sion of food. The din­ing room with huge win­dows al­lows guests a panoramic view of moun­tains in the dis­tance. Its menu fea­tures clas­sic dishes from Sichuan cui­sine, Can­tonese food and lo­cal tastes, with food qual­ity, plate set­ting and ser­vice that can com­pete with most res­tau­rants back in Shang­hai. My fa­vorite dish is deep-fried tofu with abalone sauce. The tofu, crispy out­side and ten­der inside wear­ing its layer of sauce, tastes ex­tremely de­li­cious.

The ho­tel also re­cently opened a small casual bar in Yu­cun, a walk­ing dis­tance from Lost Villa, which fills the nightlife gap in the moun­tain­ous town. Guests can en­joy beers and sakes, to­gether with Ja­panese ke­babs in the sum­mer air.

Go deeper into the moun­tains, and you can have de­cent home­made Ital­ian pizza at The Prodigy Out­door Base in Houwu vil­lage, a hos­tel that or­ga­nizes cycling ac­tiv­i­ties. The big pizza oven was built years ago. Zhang Linyuan, the owner of the club, says proudly that it of­fers the best pizza in Mo­gan­shan. Just imag­ine, af­ter a day of en­ergy-con­sum­ing cycling in the moun­tains, hav­ing a huge slice of pizza with lo­cal fla­vors from the gar­den.

Don’t worry about gain­ing weight af­ter en­joy­ing so much nice food. You will have enough things to do: The moun­tain is here to keep you ac­tive.


Ring­ing Heights, a small four-room ho­tel, is among many bou­tique ho­tels and hos­tels in Mo­gan­shan, a pop­u­lar va­ca­tion spot in De­qing, Zhe­jiang prov­ince.


Clock­wise from top left: Home­made pizza at the Prodigy Out­door Base; din­ner with lo­cal fla­vor at Ring­ing Heights; Aun­tie Yao’s noo­dle soup with salty veg­eta­bles; tofu dish at the Wilds res­tau­rant of Lost Villa; green-leaf salad with sea­sonal fruits at Ring­ing Heights.

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