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Cheap eats for the end of the month: beans and rice; tofu and sprouts

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889

Cities with really good food: Chengdu, Hangzhou, Tianjin, Yangzhou, Beijing. And Shenzhen.

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hannafit

Look forward to it, hanna! Some of the best eats in the world are to be found in the Middle Kingdom, as our resident chef abcd is a testament to! Hangzhou has the added bonus of being the center of some rather awesome tea.

That is so exciting!!! I've heard Chinese food is off the charts amazing, I can't wait!! I also LOVE tea, so huge plus. I heard about the massive tea plantation in Hangzhou, I definitely plan on visiting it! Also the temples, hiking trails and Tiger spring carving !<3333

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hannafit

Cities with really good food: Chengdu, Hangzhou, Tianjin, Yangzhou, Beijing. And Shenzhen.

WINNING!! I will be in Hangzhou for a year!!

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abcdefg

I'm looking forward to some mouth-watering posts about Hangzhou food from Hannafit, Alex_Hart, and Teasenz in these coming months. Hope you will see fit to share your discoveries!

 

When I've been there myself, I've definitely enjoyed some classic good eats. I tend to avoid the well-known tourist restaurants and try smaller places that taxi drivers and other locals tell me about.

 

One memorable lunch was actually a little out of town in the famous Longjing tea hills 龙井山 where I had gone to check out and buy some of the 明前 crop. The find was Dongpo pork 东坡肉, slow-cooked near the end in individual-serving-sized ceramic pots. Served outdoors on the terrace of one of the tea farms.

 

And it was made even better by having an endless supply of fresh-brewed, early-spring Longjing tea picked right there on the same farm only days before. I could look out on the rolling tea fields, many still covered in cool mist.

 

I had read about the famous dish beforehand, named after the Song poet and calligrapher, Su Shi 苏轼 , but never tasted it until that crisp March morning. It immediately became my "reference standard" against which all subsequent attempts had to be measured. Only a few have measured up, and that was 3 or 4 years ago.

 

Good memories of Hangzhou!

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Alex_Hart

Those lucky finds are always the best, abcd! And the setting, of course, is perfect. I vastly prefer breweries to restaurants for that very reason: breweries generally have a beautiful garden area to sip and munch on food rather than a table cloth and fancy wall.

 

Speaking of tea and pork, do you ever use tea in your cooking, abcd? I'm planning on smoking some tofu in tea, but have yet to find a totally satisfactory recipe.

@hanna: I'm looking forward to the same things!

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889

Offhand, the only dish I recall with tea is the famous 龙井虾仁.

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Teasenz

What about 茶叶蛋!

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889

I can think of a great many reasons to avoid 红桥市场 in Beijing, but those eggs bubbling away on the ground floor smelling up the whole place always deserved to be at the top of the list.

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abcdefg
Speaking of tea and pork, do you ever use tea in your cooking, abcd? I'm planning on smoking some tofu in tea, but have yet to find a totally satisfactory recipe.

 

No, Alex, I haven't used tea in cooking (beyond making tea eggs 茶叶蛋。)

 

But when I've been back in the tea mountains of South Yunnan with friends who were tea buyers looking for early-spring wholesale-quantity Pu'er "finds," we usually spent the night in the homes of local tea farmers, typically in some fairly spartan guest rooms converted out of the unused part of tea a storage barn.

 

The wife, and sometimes the mother, would cook good things for us at supper. Apart from the typical ethnic dishes of the region, it seemed there was always something or other made with fresh tea leaves. These were young, tender leaves that just been picked, not even processed. I thought they would be bitter, but they weren't. Not sure whether or not there was some trick to the preparation that I didn't know about.

 

I recall 茶叶炒鸡蛋。Met that one several times. (Tea leaf scrambled eggs.)

 

These "tea-wife" dinners also usually had one or two kinds of wild mountain vegetables that were not bought and sold commercially. Just things they gathered when going to or from the tea fields. Some were types of fern with curly leaves, others were bitter and had small thorns.

 

And after dinner, the husband usually broke out some 白酒, and someone else produced a guitar or an accordion. Made for a jolly experience. Other evenings we processed tea until after midnight, everybody pitching in. 

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Alex_Hart

@889 That sounds interesting! May end up eating seafood in China, so will need to hunt that down.

 

@Tea True! I've made them before, but admit to not tasting much tea past the spices and soy sauce.

 

@lips Brilliant! A personal favorite. Not necessarily super Chinese, but there is actually a dessert place here in NYC that does cream puffs with earl grey. To die for!

 

@abcd A story for every dish! It reminds me of Burmese cooking, which makes use of pickled tea leaves. I once had them in a noodle dish and I was pretty gobsmacked - the flavor was something totally new to me. 

 

Do you mean "fiddlehead ferns?" I saw them in the Chinese groceries here and they look absolutely awesome - would make for great presentation. Perhaps the view would help soothe the wounds incurred during an evening of 白酒.

 

I'll be trying to do the tea smoked tofu this weekend, so will let y'all know if it turns out well.

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