Chilly Weather Turns Food Focus to Lamb, Goats
The chilly weather sweeping most places is warming people’s thoughts to the taste of mutton, goat and lamb which in traditional Chinese medicine are considered tonics containing yang (hot) energy necessary for fall and winter.
Hangzhou people have maintained the tradition of eating goat or sheep’s meat ever since the 14th century when a large number of Arab merchants came to do business in China and chose to remain in Hangzhou, then a commercial and cultural center.
Islamic restaurants sprung up where these Muslims settled. Muslim cuisine, in the form of mostly mutton and beef dishes, has long enriched local food culture, combining with Han and Mongolian cuisine styles.
More dishes arrived and were developed in ensuing centuries and today Shanghai Daily introduces several classical, representative Hangzhou goat/mutton cuisines and snacks that appeared in different times.
There are still traces of the Arab merchants in Hangzhou today. The name “mutton soup restaurant” originally applied to classic Islamic restaurants offering mutton-based fast food, including dim sum and noodles.
There were many mutton soup restaurants on Zhongshan Road, the city’s major axis during ancient times. The soup containing mutton, sometimes bones and viscera, is a perfect match for naan, and is tasty enough to include noodles.
To experience the original flavors, diners need merely to visit the only mutton soup restaurant that remains on Zhongshan Road M. Founded in 1788, it has adopted a generic name — Mutton Soup Restaurant.
It mainly offers mutton dishes but also has pork on the menu so is no longer a Muslim restaurant.
Classic dishes on the menu also include sliced boiled mutton and mutton braised in soy sauce.
The mutton noodles and steamed mutton dumplings are made from a secret recipe that goes back more than 100 years.
Mutton soup is so popular in the city that one restaurant is unable to satisfy the market demand.
A-Long Mutton Soup is a small shop that is nearly full most days with loyal customers. Most come for the soup.
A huge pot of mutton soup is boiled every day. Ingredients include sheep’s head, mutton and entrails.
Different organs can be added upon request, including stomach and lung. Mutton soup is highly recommended because meat from the animal’s face is added.
The meat soup is sold out every day before 11am.
Fried lamb dumplings and fried beef buns are also recommended. The beef buns are not that oily and the golden crispy crust is delicious. Every day the small eatery sells around 1,200 dumplings and buns.
Where to eat:
• Mutton Soup Restaurant
Address: 64 Zhongshan Rd M.
• A-Long Mutton Soup
Address: 32 Xinyifang St
Residents in Gexiang Village of Cangqian Town made a living butchering goats and selling the meat to nearby cities in the early 20th century.
But they also needed to work out how to deal with the rest of the animal, like the feet, head and stomach. So they adapted the remainders for their dinner.
A feast for at least 10 people could be cooked up when the goat’s skull, tail and viscera were cleaned, thrown into a large pot over a wood fire and simple seasoning was added.
The only uncertainty was diners didn’t know what they would pull out of the half-person-tall pot to eat. The hot steam would make it all but impossible to pick and choose, but that was considered part of the fun of “Drawing from the Goat Pot,” as locals call the meal.
“Drawing from the Goat Pot” is not a necessity to save food in these days of relative well-being. But it has become a treat for locals and a culinary adventure for tourists, as well as a signature dish for Cangqian Town.
Goat meat is added into the pot today because the villagers’ goat pot business has become bigger than selling the raw meat. They only use the best goat (one-to-two years old, weighing 15 to 25 kilograms), and the firewood must be dry and aged.
The drawing part is now done in the kitchen, and what is served at the table is a goat hotpot, including boiled sliced goat, boiled goat feet, boiled goat tail and all kinds of boiled goat viscera. For the most adventurous, goat eyeballs and testicles also can be added.
The special feast has generated so much business that in 2008 the government invested 30 million yuan (US$4.72 million) to renovate the village.
A Goat Pot Festival has been held for the past nine years, welcoming an estimated three million eaters, and this year’s event opened yesterday.
Cangqian Town has about 20 restaurants run by locals that only sell goat pot during the festival. The local government makes sure they charge the same price and sell the same product so visitors don’t need to worry about which one to pick.
If you go: Drive on Wenyi Road W. to Luding Road, then turn left and drive for about 20 minutes.
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