Elegant Zhejiang and Jiangsu Cuisine
Hangzhou and Suzhou are the centers of Zhejiang and Jiangsu cuisines respectively. Chefs in both places pay close attention to freshness and tenderness. The key difference between the two styles is that Zhejiang cuisine involves more vinegary tastes, while Jiangsu cuisine is sweet.
The two adjoining provinces have formed China's most prosperous and richest area since ancient times, and have long attracted wealthy merchants and scholars. The climate is mild and humid, and numerous rivers ensure there are plentiful ingredients available.
Songhelou Restaurant on Suzhou's Shantang Street is the best place to enjoy Jiangsu cuisine, and Louwailou Restaurant near Hangzhou's West Lake is best for Zhejiang cuisine. Both Zhejiang and Jiangsu cuisines place great emphasis on offering diners a pleasing environment in which to eat, but elegant scenes are hard to find these days in the busy urban districts of Hangzhou. Even the time-honored Songhelou Restaurant is now surrounded by the bustle and noise of the city's busy downtown area. In contrast, Louwailou Restaurant is surrounded by a pleasing environment of hills and lakes.
A foreign tourist trying his hand at cooking a Hangzhou dish.
Gastronomists also recommend another restaurant on Longjing Road, called Yiyuan Longjing Manor. This picturesque private manor is surrounded by a concentrated dose of Hangzhou scenery. There is no menu and diners need a reservation. All food materials are purchased directly from farmers, and dishes are cooked using firewood and without additives, gourmet powders or sugar. Meals are meticulously prepared, with the pork braised in brown sauce for three days and the duck stewed for a whole afternoon. Sixty staff members labor to provide exquisite meals for just 12 tables a day.
Among China's eight famous styles of cooking, "classical" Shandong cuisine has now melted into the new school of Beijing flavors. Anhui and Hunan cuisines have similarly blended with Sichuan dishes and lost their distinctive color.