Hangzhou is widely considered one of China’s most picturesque cities. With a scenic lake, ancient pagodas, and refined street food, it’s no wonder the city is one of the country’s top tourist destinations. Here are the dishes you have to try.
In Chinese, there is a phrase 上有天堂, 下有苏杭, which roughly translates to “above there is heaven, below there are Suzhou and Hangzhou.”
Hangzhou is widely considered one of China’s most beautiful cities. With a scenic lake, ancient pagodas, and refined street food, it’s no wonder Hangzhou often tops the list of tourist destinations in China.
The city’s cuisine is defined by seafood, thanks to its location on China’s east coast. The surrounding waterways are the perfect home for fish and growing vegetables.
Food here tends to be light and sweet. Ingredients are usually boiled, stewed, or cooked in their own juices to bring out their subtle flavors.
Here are five dishes you have to try, all located around Hangzhou’s historic West Lake.
Pan-fried scallion wrap 葱包烩
This Hangzhou specialty, called congbaohui 葱包烩 in Chinese, dates back about 800 years when Hangzhou was the capital of China.
Its name comes from a reviled figure in Chinese history named Qin Hui, who jailed and executed a widely respected general.
Cong 葱 means scallion, bao 包 means wrap, and 烩 hui refers to Qin Hui. The assumption is that the scallions are suffocating Qin.
The dish itself is a pan-fried wrap with a fried dough stick known as youtiao 油条 and scallions stuffed inside.
This shop in Hangzhou serves it with your choice of sweet bean or chili sauce.
Address: 391 Zhongshan South Road 中山南路391号
Pian’er chuan noodles 片儿川面
Pian’er chuan 片儿川 literally means “pieces floating in a river” and refers to the way ingredients seem to float on top of the soup.
Wheat noodles serve as the base, and the toppings are local ingredients such as bamboo shoots and pickled mustard greens.
This particular shop is so popular that people line up for hours just to get a steaming hot bowl of noodles.
Address: 629 Jiangcheng Road 江城路629号
Sweet and sour dumplings 糖醋煎饺
Hangzhou food is known for being sweet and sour, and there’s no better example than sweet and sour dumplings, or tangcu jianjiao 糖醋煎饺.
The stuffing is made from ground pork that’s been marinated in vinegar and sugar, giving the dumplings their distinct flavor.
This shop in Hangzhou wraps and pan-fries the dumplings themselves.
Address: 99 Xinhua Road 新华路99号
Osmanthus lotus root paste 桂花味藕粉
Osmanthus flowers are a common sight in Hangzhou in the fall, when they’re in full bloom.
The petals are used in a wide range of desserts, including lotus root paste, where the flowers’ fragrance counterbalance the earthy sweetness of lotus root.
Lotus root is first ground into a powder. The petals are mixed in before hot water is added to turn the powder into paste.
This shop in Hangzhou makes the mildly sweet dessert by hand.
Address: 27-29 Zhongshan Middle Road 中山中路27号~29号
Malt sugar candy 麦芽糖
This candy, made from maltose syrup, is a popular souvenir for visitors of Hangzhou.
The syrup is made from a mix of rice, water, and malt. The taste is similar to honey, but not as sweet.
This shop in Hangzhou sells the candy in different shapes and flavors, including one with a sesame paste filling and another that’s used as a religious offering to the Kitchen God, a Chinese deity said to protect families.
Address: 471 Zhongshan South Road 中山南路 471号