West Lake on a plate in con­jur­ings of clas­sicHangzhou dishes

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - By XULIN xulin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Only a few min­utes’ walk from pic­turesque West Lake is Cheng Zhong Res­tau­rant, where food­iess can en­joy the clas­sic dishes of the Hangzhou area as well as Can­tonese-style dim sum. In­no­va­tive dishes and dim sum are pre­pared with lo­cal in­gre­di­ents from Hangzhou, Zhe­jiang prov­ince.

“It’s im­por­tant to in­herit the essence of the tra­di­tional food, while at the same time try some­thing new,” says Yu Feipeng, the Chi­nese ex­ec­u­tive chef. “It’s also great value-for-money, with af­ford­able prices for de­li­cious cui­sine.”

The res­tau­rant is in the Mid­town Shangri-La, Hangzhou, but has a much lower prices than other restau­rants of the brand’s ho­tels, he says. The av­er­age cost here for one per­son is about 100 to 120 yuan ($15 to $18) for lunch and 130 to 150 yuan for sup­per.

He says his kitchen team tries its best to of­fer guests foods that con­tain good qual­ity in­gre­di­ents but fe­wad­di­tives.

For ex­am­ple, monosodium glu­ta­mate is not al­lowed. Food is col­ored with nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents such as green spinach juice and red yeast rice.

Pork braised in brown sauce is a com­mon home­made dish that may re­mindHangzhou res­i­dents of their mo­mor grandma.

Yu has his own method to make guests mouth-wa­ter­ing of the lay­ers of pork skin, lean meat and fat. The re­sult is fatty but not greasy, soon melt­ing in one’s month.

“If there is no oil in the dish, it will not be tasty,” Yu says.

His se­cret to bal­ance the fla­vor is to choose the best streaky pork. He only uses one small part of the pork belly with the per­fect ra­tio of lean meat and fat.

The live­stock is from an or­ganic farm on a moun­tain nearby the city. One whole pig only of­fers enough meat of the right qual­ity for 10 plates of this dish.

He then stews it for sev­eral hours with slow fire, so the lard will soak into the lean meat.

He uses quail eggs in­stead of chicken eggs be­cause it’s easy for the quail eggs to ab­sorb the fla­vors and the food plat­ing will look more del­i­cate.

The “four beau­ties” dish uses four pre­cious in­gre­di­ents — mat­su­take mush­rooms, fish, wa­ter shield ( chun cai) fromWest Lake, and crab roe. It orig­i­nated from a recipe in a book by scholar Li Yu from the Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911).

The thick soup is fresh and tasty, al­low­ing the fla­vor of each in­gre­di­ent to shine through.

One of the sig­na­ture dishes is wal­nut cake, which is in­spired by a tra­di­tional Chi­nese rice cake. It takes two hours to stew the caramel and in­te­grate it with­Hangzhou’s fa­mous wal­nut to make the cake.

Chef Yu says it’s bet­ter to have the tasty dessert with Hangzhou’s well­known green tea Longjing.

Guests can have a sip of the ten­der tea buds picked be­foreTom­bSweep­ing Day in early April, which is be­lieved to be the best time to pick spring tea. The del­i­cate fra­grance is a per­fect match with the sweet dessert.

As a sym­bol of the city, Longjing tea (“dragon well” tea) is also used in some in­no­va­tive dishes. Cream pud­ding with Longjing tea sauce is like a pot­ted flower, de­liv­er­ing the tea’s bit­ter taste fol­lowed by bright sweet­ness.

“In modern so­ci­ety, one’s likes about food are dif­fer­ent com­pared with be­fore. For ex­am­ple, about 30 years ago, we all like oily dishes, but nowa­days, the trend is to have light food due to con­cerns such as health,” he says.

He says both ho­tel guests and other cus­tomers have ac­cess to the res­tau­rant be­cause it’s lo­cated in a shop­ping mall.

One has to make a reser­va­tion at least one week in ad­vance, and peo­ple of­ten line up to get in.

“Our pop­u­lar­ity proves that high per­for­mance-price ra­tio is in ac­cor­dance with con­sumer ex­pec­ta­tions. It’s a new trend, to tar­get the masses with fa­vor­able price.”

He says there are not so many busi­ness meals; most cus­tomers are young peo­ple and fam­i­lies.

“Our table­ware adopts col­ors and styles that match our dishes — sim­ple and clean, and to high­light the in­gre­di­ents them­selves. Only a bit or­na­ment is suf­fi­cient, such as the pat­terns of lo­tus, lo­tus leaves and lo­tus pods.”

Food is served on slabs of black stone or green porce­lain to re­flect the beauty of na­ture.

One of Yu’s fa­vorite parts of the decor: The big tra­di­tional porce­lain teapots be­cause they used to be a pop­u­lar daily ne­ces­sity of the lo­cals, and they make guests feel nos­tal­gic.

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

From left: Cream­pud­ding with Longjing tea sauce; pork braised in brown sauce; wal­nut cake.

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