Just How Much Do You Know About Hangzhou Snacks?

Hangzhou snacks are an integral part of Han food culture, characterized by an abundance of varieties and flavors, all varying with the changes in season. Spring Festival sees various types of spring rolls, meat dumplings, and assorted rice puddings, while Qingming Festival is accompanied by Steamed Wormwood Leaf Glutinous Rice Dumplings. Dragon Boat Festival is incomplete without Xisha Zongzi (glutinous rice dumpling with red bean jam) or meat-jammed Zongzi, Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated with moon cakes in the style of Hangzhou, Suzhou or Guangzhou and Double Ninth Festival is observed with chestnut cakes.

Springtime snacking involves a lot of shrimp, fish and bamboo shoots. Snacks like noodles with stir-fried eel shreds and shelled shrimps, Pian Er Chuan noodles, and small steamed buns with shrimp are the most popular seasonal food. Summer finds mint cakes, crystal cakes, tuckahoe cakes, meat bones porridge, Sanqiu Lake Xiefei (三秋湖蟹肥), crab dumplings and large crab steamed buns in high demand and for December, fried glutinous rice cakes, and rice cakes with lard and rose find favor with the masses.

Most of the ingredients used in these preparations are native to Hangzhou and oftentimes have some connection with various West Lake scenic spots. For example, West Lake lotus root starch enjoys the status of a must-have when people cruise the West Lake in summer, and appreciating osmanthus in Manjuelong Village in autumn finds locals craving a bowl of West Lake osmanthus and chestnut soup.

With its long history, Hangzhou snack culture has roots in regional lore, examples of this being Wushan Crisp cake and Fried Hui (Cong Bao Hui). Legend has it that Yue Fei, a patriot and nationalist military leader in the Southern Song Dynasty, was wrongly executed because of a treacherous court official, Qin Hui. The owner of a fried food shop, a Hangzhounese, hated Qin Hui so much that he shaped a bread stick into human form and fried it whilst chanting “Frying Qin Hui, frying Qin Hui!” When asked what it was called, he answered casually, “Fried Hui!” which is how the name came into being.

Hangzhou has many other famous snacks such as chicken cakes (小鸡酥), Sister Song’s Fish Broth (宋嫂鱼羹), Dingsheng Cake (定胜糕), Youdong’er (油冬儿) etc that offer those wishing to explore Chinese delicacies a wonderful taste of local culture.