Essence of Chinese cuisine is in its seasonal taste

It is believed that the essence of Chinese cuisine is to take the right food in the right season. What will locals eat in spring? Shanghai Daily offers a few recommendations below.

It is generally believed that the essence of Chinese cuisine is to take the right food in the right season. What will locals eat in spring? Shanghai Daily offers a few recommendations below.

Sun Jiewei

Indian aster blended with dried bean curd in sesame oil

Indian aster 马兰头

The Indian aster is one of the most common spring vegetables in the south of the Yangtze River in China. The flowering plant is inconspicuous, seen along the roadside, on the slopes of hills or on ridges between rice fields.

The edible part is its leaves and stems, and it is mainly served as a cold appetizer in a Chinese banquet. The fresh leaves need to be blanched before use. They are then chopped into tiny pieces together with dried bean curd.

Add a bit of salt and sesame oil and blend well.

The refreshing flavor of the delicacy is a constant reminder of spring in the fields.

Where to eat: 

Tianxianglou Restaurant

Address: 2-3/F, Zhejiang Hotel, 447 Yan’an Rd

Tel: (0571) 8787-6789/8703-3388

Quick fried freshwater snails in soysauce

Freshwater snail 螺蛳

Not many can resist the savory taste of freshwater snails in spring. And yes, it must be spring snails because the meat is especially tender and succulent at this time of the year.

In the Jiangnan-style cooking, the snails are quick fried in high heat with scallions, peppers, ginger and a bit of light soy sauce. Some people add Chinese baijiu (distilled spirit) to eradicate the fishy smell.

Snails are easy to fish from shallow ponds, and it is often taken as a tapas dish with wine. 

Locals will generally drink the broth inside the shell after taking the meat. On a warm spring night, order a big plate of fried snails at a sidewalk snack booth. It is an ideal plate to share and relax with friends.

Where to eat:

Xinyi Tea House

Address: No. 89, Meijiawu

Tel: (0571) 8709-3315

Preserved pork steamed with spring bamboo shoots

Bamboo shoot 春笋

In Chinese cooking, there are several types of bamboo shoots. Those harvested in spring are spring bamboo shoots or chunsun. In summer they are called biansun, while the winter ones are dongsun (winter bamboo shoots).

They are all cooked differently with various ingredients but they should never be mixed up. Among all of them the spring bamboo shoots are the most delicate and juicy.

One can prepare the food in several ways: stir-fried with soy sauce or stewed in soup. A very local way is to steam preserved pork in soy sauce with spring bamboo shoots.

The preserved pork could be considered as a winter food. It is usually marinated and dried in large quantities before the Spring Festival and can be taken for a long while during and after the vacation.

The bamboo shoots absorb the grease and also fragrances of the meat. The juicy vegetables have no specific taste but they balance the saltiness of the pork.

Where to eat:

Steam Young

Address: 4/F, Block D, Intime Shopping Mall, 239 Yan’an Rd

Tel: (0571) 8199-6803

Chen Hao

Longjing tea crisp and lotus crisp

Longjing tea crisp cake 龙井茶酥

In the latest documentary series of “A Bite of China,” the production team came to Hangzhou for some Longjing tea crisp. The pastry is a variation of the traditional Wushan crisp cake, which has been known as a local treat in Hangzhou for over 1,000 years. The Longjing tea harvested in March inspired a pastry chef at the time-honored restaurant Zhiweiguan. He tried to add green tea and mashed tea leaves into the cake. The innovative dessert has won him international food awards.

The food looks a little bit like a crepe cake with layers on top of each other. But it is actually deep fried in oil and tastes crispy with a special tea aroma.

The lotus crisp is also featured in the documentary. It is made in a similar way with dough steeped in radish juice and carrot juice to represent different parts of the lotus. 

Where to eat:

Hupanju Tea House

Address: No. 1, Shengtang Scenic Spot

Tel: (0571) 8702-0701/8702-1618

Special Reports