Global foodies get a 'Taste of Hangzhou'
The “Taste of Hangzhou” festival, which was the largest food event ever held in the capital city of Zhejiang Province, has brought together food and food lovers from across Asia and beyond.
The food gala was held from May 15 to 22 along the banks of the Qiantang River.
“We expect the festival to be your trip toward cultural exchanges, your trip toward happiness and your trip toward multinational collaboration,” said Zhou Jiangyong, Party secretary of Hangzhou, at the opening ceremony on May 15.
The Food Culture Park, occupying 110,000 square meters in Qianjiang New Town, housed 253 catering enterprises from 56 countries and regions, according to Hangzhou Bureau of Commerce, the organizer.
The temporarily built food park consisted of three distinct zones — Taste Asian, Taste International and Taste Qianjiang.
The first day of the festival, though rainy, saw plenty of hearty appetites satisfied. At a popular United Arab Emirates booth more than 1,700 sticks of barbecue were sold, and the popular local food store Xinfeng Snacks sold more than 600 baskets of its signature steamed buns.
In the Taste Asian zone, there were Japanese sushi and plum wine, South Korean dobogi and cheese ribs, Southeast Asian boneless chicken feet, green papaya salad and tom yam kong soup, to name but a few of the treats on the streets. Visitors could also buy the whole signature UAE sun pastries or just once slice.
Hangzhou Bureau of Commerce also invited some renowned chefs to demonstrate their skills on site.
Sakaki Akio, a Japanese chef making traditional sushi since the age of 18, came up with a “nine-dragon” sushi work for the festival. Sushi dragons on a huge blue plate attracted a constant stream of visitors keen to stop and take photos.
“The dragon is the cherished totem of both the Chinese and Japanese people. I designed the display to boost the spirit of people visiting the festival,” said Akio.
Rajinder Kumar from India woefully underestimated how popular his curries and mango lassi would be, and sold out all his food on the first day. He promised to stay up all night if necessary to prepare more for the next day.
A Dubai music restaurant provided characteristic kebabs, pastries and desserts. “Some of the ingredients we use are very precious. All the meat we use to make the kebabs is flown to the city in the previous day,” said the restaurant owner.
At the “Taste of Hangzhou” exhibition hall, Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, the name of an island in the West Lake and one of the city’s most famous scenic spots, was recreated as noodle dish, attracting the admiration of many visitors.
“Hangzhou cuisine came to the attention of the world during the G20 Summit in 2016. We are now pushing our food in Hong Kong and the northern part of China, as well as the US,” said Yao Zhiming, a senior photographer at Hangzhou Photo Studio affiliated to Hangzhou Catering Services Group.
“The new generation of Hangzhou chefs are young and creative. I have been a food photographer for years, taking photos of their dishes and snacks. Our food is becoming more like a work of art that you feel reluctant to poke with your chopsticks,” Yao added.
High technology also can be seen in the food fair.
In the Taste Asian zone, visitors could have their KFC food delivered by drone, or be served by a robot waiter at the booth of the local Xinbailu Restaurant.
In the Taste International zone, there was dried fruit from Turkey, coffee from Indonesia, tea from Sri Lanka and dried mushrooms from South Korea.
The Taste Qianjiang zone housed more than 150 local dining booths.
Abigail Ward, 26, and Ellie Bashett, 22, both English teachers from the UK working in Hangzhou, were among tens of thousands of people to visit the food park on the first day.
“It’s an amazing opportunity. From a foreigner’s point of view, it’s really nice to have international food when we are away from our own culture for so long,” said Ward.
“Chinese people tend to eat just Chinese food. So it’s really nice that they can experience food from all of the world,” added Bashett.
At the sunken stage of Hangzhou Grand Theater, there were performances of African drumming, Sri Lankan dance and Ukrainian belly dancing.
A food utensil exhibition, a food photography exhibit, forums and competitions were also important sideshows at the festival.