TEA is widely accepted as a drink for boosting the mind. In China, it is also used as an aromatic ingredient for making mouth-watering dishes. In ancient classics, tea is believed to nourish the essence of rice and vegetables and balance the grease in meat.
Hangzhou cuisine, with the benefit of Longjing tea, boasts a range of tea-related dishes and pastry.
One is Longjing shrimp (龙井虾仁). Ask a waiter in any of the long-standing Hangzhou cuisine restaurants, he will tell you the dish was born from a mistake when Emperor Qianlong (1711-99) was here on a visit.
But that was only legend. What’s true is its popularity among tourists and heads of state as well. The best season is from early April to May when the first-graded Longjing tea is freshly harvested.
Another traditional Hangzhou tea cuisine is tea-flavored chicken (茶香鸡), which is commonly seen in restaurants in Longjing Village.
The chicken is marinated in brewed green tea with scallion, ginger and fennel before simmering it on a stove for about two hours.
For beginners, these dishes may be too difficult to start with. Shanghai Daily lists three suggestions you can easily make at home.
Ochazuke is the Japanese name of chapaofan — simply pouring hot tea on cooked rice. Paofan has been a typical breakfast in southern China since ancient times, where cooked or overnight rice was steeped in hot water, or heated with broth from the previous night.
But it is rare now among youngsters. As the Chinese writer Zhou Zuoren once noted, it was a pity that Chinese did so often out of cost or convenience rather than savoring Ochazuke’s signature taste of its own.
Actually it goes well in summer when you are fed up with meaty meals. Cook rice with enough water so that it doesn’t get too soft and glutinous. Top the rice with a pickled plum, sliced nori sheets and sesame seeds.
Tip in some salt or several drops of Japanese soy sauce as you like. Lastly, pour in the hot green tea slowly until it covers two-thirds of the rice. Always use good tea with a strong taste.
Tea eggs are humble street food full of family memories. Children often take one or two tea eggs at a street vendor after school, to beat the hunger between the school lunch and mom’s dinner. It is also a usual takeaway for family trips.
Nowadays, tea eggs are easily found in 24-hour convenience stores such as FamilyMart or Lawson. But a real gourmet doesn’t buy there. They know the tastier ones are always home-made.
Prepare eggs, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, sugar and two to three bags of black tea. Use free range eggs‚ usually, the smaller the better. You can replace black tea with oolong, green tea or yellow tea. But black tea is said to be more appetizing and with a stronger tea taste.
Wash the eggs and boil them for 10 minutes. Cool the eggs in cold water. Take the eggs out and tap the shell carefully on a hard surface so that the shell is fully covered with long and short cracks.
Boil the water again. Tip in the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce and one teaspoon of sugar.
Then add the teabags and the cracked eggs, simmer them in low heat for about 20 minutes. Make sure the water level is above the eggs.
Add any spices such as star anise, fennel or cinnamon sticks as you like to accentuate the taste.
When foreign alcohol brands such as Chivas were first introduced to China, people mixed it with green tea. But the mix was awkward and too local for some.
But whisky with iced green tea is a quite refreshing choice for a hot summer night out. If mixed in the right proportion with the right type, tea can make good cocktails.
When the Midtown Shangri-La Hotel opened in Hangzhou, they wanted to present a promotional video featuring local tea culture. So the hotel introduced Longjing spritz.
Based on a special “tea alcohol” in cooperation with Luzhou Laojiao (a baijiu company in Sichuan Province), the cocktail tastes sweet and fresh with the benefit of Longjing tea, goji and mint.
Here is a simple recipe for a late summer tea cocktail:
Prepare Tieguanyin tea (or any other oolong tea with a strong taste), rum, gin, tonic and lime. Cold-brew Tieguanyin tea in a pitcher and refrigerate it for at least one hour. Pour in one ounce of rum into the cocktail shaker, adding ice for quicker cooling. Empty the rum into a glass that you are going to serve. Mix the cold-brew tea together with rum. Add gin and tonic with lime as decoration.
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