Day 2 in Hangzhou

Arrived in Shanghai at 5:00 pm on Sunday evening – in a driving rain (it is the rainy season).  The actual flight time was 12 hours – San Francisco to Shanghai. However, you go through 14 time zones and the international date line – so you arrive the day after you leave: left San Francisco at 1:45 pm Saturday, arrive Shanghai at 5:00 pm Sunday.

Monday we set up the classroom and went over schedules and wine, and they took me out to a traditional Hangzhou dinner that night with dishes all created in an around the city of Hangzhou.

The menu, from front to back was: (platter – front and center) crispy tofu ‘skins’ with a sweet and sour sauce – a sheet of tofu ‘dough’ rolled and stir fried, (bowl to left of platter) pork dumplings, mushrooms and greens in a light vegetable stock, (bowl at top of tofu platter) hot and sour soup, (plate with greens to right of hot and sour soup) cilantro and pickled fish skin salad, (platter above the cilantro and fish skin salad) Beggar’s chicken – chicken baked in lotus leaves, (large bowl to left of Beggar’s Chicken) the ‘most famous’ dish of Hangzhou – Emperor’s Fish (fish head soup with greens in a bean paste sauce) and (bowl above Beggar’s Chicken and Emperor’s Fish) braised eels in a brown sauce.  The two partially obscured small bowls (one directly behind the dumpling and mushroom soup, the other directly behind the Emperor’s Fish) are the cold salads: young bamboo shoots and bean shoots.  Not pictured was a classic dish of smoked and baked pork belly.

All of the dishes were excellent, I particularly liked the eels.  I even survived eating only using chop sticks.

The story I was told behind Emperor’s Chicken – the Emperor was traveling through the countryside and became hungry. So he stopped at a peasant’s hut and asked for some of whatever they were eating for dinner.  The only thing they had was a fish head – so they ‘created’ a dish with fish head and greens in a fermented bean past stock.  The Emperor so enjoyed the dish that he named it ‘Emperor’s Fish.’ The peasants became famous and started a restaurant, the restaurant I had dinner in is on the site of the original restaurant started by the peasants.  This occurred about 500 years ago.

The restaurant is located in the heart of ‘old’ Hangzhou.

On my arrival Sunday night, we had a ‘quick’ Chinese meal, which included several dishs, one of which was smoked duck tongues – another local specialty.  I discovered there here is a trick to eating a duck tongue.

More later.

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