Summer Treats Add Flavor to Cuisine Scene
There are several dishes proving popular this summer in Hangzhou. The spicy Sichuan creation chuanchuan xiang, surprisingly, is drawing locals in swarms. They can’t get enough of that fiery taste and some also say that sweating helps cool the body during the summer.
Laozao is an especially popular treat in July and August as it can be served either as a dessert or a refreshing beverage. The hot season also happens to be the time of year some aquatic creatures and fish fatten up, making it the ideal time to savor critters such as eel.
Shanghai Daily recommends three places where you can sample at least one of the aforementioned dishes in Hangzhou.
Chuanchuan xiang (or chuanchuan) features ingredients such as meat and vegetables stuck on bamboo sticks and then boiled in a pot of spicy broth. Chuanchuan symbolizes Sichuan cuisine along with hotpot and both are famous across the country.
However, chuanchuan restaurants have only sprouted up in the past few years in Hangzhou. But they have become more popular of late due to the somewhat novel eating method compared with a typical hotpot meal.
Chuanchuan popped up in the mid-1980s — hotpot can be traced back about 1,000 years — when vendors started cooking on small stoves along roadsides. Dipped into a pungent sauce, chuanchuan had a peppery and yummy taste. The concoction quickly spread around Sichuan and Chongqing.
Ingredients now include everything from seafood and red meat to vegetables and soy bean products.
A typical chuanchuan features different foods that are arranged according to flavors and color in order to present a pleasing arrangement.
Diehard fans say the broth is the key to great tasting chuanchuan. Usually its contains pork bones that are simmered for hours with two dozens of herbs.
Laozao is glutinous rice fermented with wine that produces a sweet and sour taste.
It is served two ways, as a dessert or as a drink.
Reducing the proportion of wine creates an aromatic rice dessert that tastes like a mild wine. Cutting the proportion of rice creates a wine-like beverage with the scent of rice.
Over the years other ingredients have been added and this varies in different parts of the country. In northwestern China, egg is added to make it more nutritious while in the southeast dried osmanthus and Chinese wolfberries are blended in to make laozao more refreshing.
In southern China, laozao is also used to make mantou while in Sichuan and Guizhou locals use laozao to pickle vegetables. According to traditional Chinese medicine, laozao helps improve circulation and boost energy. However, people with liver diseases cannot eat it since it contains alcohol.
In former times, vendors used a shoulder pole to carry two small buckets on two ends to sell iced laozao, a popular summer treat. But alas, such vendors are no longer seen in Hangzhou.
But there is a store selling it that opened at the end of last year. It sells freshly made laozao featuring a refreshing taste and fresh ingredients.
Summer eel is more corpulent compared to other seasons so dinners may want to select eel dishes for the next month or so. Rice covered with eel is a classic Japanese dish easy to find on menus in the city’s Japanese restaurants.
Japan has a long history of eating the slippery fish. In the past, eel was reserved for the upper class as it was expensive. But today almost everyone can afford it.
The eel flesh is first marinated with seasonings for about 30 minutes to remove the fishy smell and enhance its flavor. It’s then coated with layers of sauces and toasted for six to eight minutes. Sprinkle a pitch of white sesame on it to finish and serve. Usually, eel is served with a bowl of soup, which is simmered with its liver. Where to eat:
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