HANGZHOU locals have begun planning for the forthcoming Chinese Lunar New Year, despite it being more than a month away. Work is well underway in anticipation for the celebration with several mouthwatering dishes being prepared for the traditional ceremonial feasts and family banquets.
Smells, like preserved poultry meat and homemade sausage hung in the warm sunshine, are everywhere at the moment. This is a popular dish with Hangzhou natives and always makes an appearance on tables during the Spring Festival, which starts on February 16 this year.
Fried spring rolls are another must-have meal on a Hangzhou Lunar New Year table. The rolls are wrapped in chunbing (spring pancake), an oven-fresh thin floury sheet sold by street vendors around the city.
Stewed foods are also popular seasonal treats in Hangzhou. Long queues are often seen outside popular outlets, which sell a whole range of stewed products, such as duck, beef and fish in soy sauce.
These snacks usually serve as appetizers during the Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner.
Instead of shopping in supermarkets and online e-commerce platforms, locals prefer to purchase traditional, time-honored food. This is often a particular handmade product, which has become popular with consumers over the years thanks to a secret recipe or a unique preparation technique.
Shanghai Daily offers several suggestions of must-buy snacks and dishes popular in the Lunar New Year celebrations, as well as locals’ suggestions of where to buy the most authentic versions in Hangzhou.
Throughout the years, local residents have kept a tradition of drying black carp meat before Lunar New Year. Handmade techniques have declined in downtown areas so many citizens swarm to the villages for the succulent fish.
Wufeng Village, at the confluence of Qiantang, Fuchun and Puyang rivers, produces the most popular dried fish. It is made from an average of 5 kilograms of black carp. The bigger fish are usually packaged as gifts, which have found favor with natives, especially the middle-aged and elderly.
Preparing the process of dried black carp is time-consuming. Using bamboo strips to prop open the fish, they are then wrapped with a layer of salt. The following day it is turned upside down and coated with salt again. This procedure is repeated five times until the salt penetrates into meat. After this preparation the salt is washed out and the fish is hung in the sunshine. To finish, baijiu is sprayed on the fish when it is 80 percent dry. The meat can be conserved for about a year.
Steaming dried fish with chopped scallion is one of the most common dishes in winter.
Where to eat:
• Wufeng Village
Address: Near Yucai Road, Fuyang District, at the confluence of Qiantang, Fuchun and Puyang rivers
Handmade Chinese sausage
Dried, hard Chinese sausages are generally sweeter than their Western counterparts. They are flavored lightly with a bit of soy sauce and sugar, and you will often taste them steamed with rice in clay pots or stir-fried with vegetables or soups.
They can be found in numerous stores around the city, generally hanging out next to massive slabs of salt pork and Jinhua hams. For Hangzhou locals, the most popular handmade sausages come from Chef Yu in Zhalongkou Wet Market.
He has had a stall in the market for more than 16 years, between November and January every year. People bring their pork to Yu and ask him to make sausages according to their own flavors. Yu only charges the processing fee.
He follows a secret recipe and mixes the appropriate percentage of fat and lean meat together. Consumers then take sausages back and hang them in ventilated places until they go dry. If you don’t want to wait for a long processing time, guests can buy ready-made products from the stall.
Yu and his workers prepare nearly 2,000 kilograms of sausages during a busy day. Natives from the neighboring communities and other districts flock there for this delicious food. People should get their sausages bought or prepared early because the stall closes 10 days before Lunar New Year.
Where to eat:
• Zhalongkou Wet Market, Chef Yu’s food stall
Address: 26 Jichang Rd
Preserved duck in soy sauce
When passing residential buildings, or roadside food stores, you can see lines of preserved ducks hung from windows and roofs. This is something of a Hangzhou-style phenomenon around the Spring Festival.
The duck is coated with layers of seasonings and marinated with broth for days and then taken out and immersed in soy sauce for another several days. Then it has to be hung from a ventilated platform until the sauce dries out.
Maya duck from Shaoxing City is the best variety of this traditional food. It is characterized by tender, succulent meat without any odor. During the marinating process, the duck should be sprayed with baijiu (Chinese alcoholic beverage made from grain) to enhance flavorings and prevent it from decaying.
Abundant sunshine and cold weather are the key to cook this Hangzhou-style delicacy. And the natives always make it on chilly days when the temperature drops to as low as zero degrees Celsius.
In the city there are a batch of time-honored stores famous for their delectably preserved ducks. Kang Kang Restaurant has been selling this handmade product for 24 years. And every year during the festival, they sell around 5,000 ducks.
Another noted outlet is the Wenjuan Preserved Duck Shop, hidden in a secluded lane. The owner has produced fare for 15 years and only sells ducks from December to February.
Where to eat:
• Wenjuan Preserved Duck Shop
Address: 14 Caiyuanqian Lane
• Kang Kang Restaurant
Address: 176 Jingfang Rd
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