Zhejiang cuisine is known as one of the major eight cuisines in China. It offers a combination of flavors from Hangzhou, Ningbo and Wenzhou-style cooking. Of the three flavors, Ningbo cuisine is noted for its use of seafood, for its special flavors and taste from well-selected ingredients, unique, fresh and tender. Ningbo has its own unique ways of quick-frying, stir-frying, deep-frying, simmering and steaming. Special care is taken during the cooking process to make the food more fresh and tender. Representative Ningbo dishes include Crystal Sugar Turtle, Dry Fried River Eel, and Yellow Croaker with Sea Cucumber.
Top Ten Ningbo Dishes
Crystal Sugar Turtle (Bingtang Jiayu)
Crystal Sugar Turtle, as one of Ningbo’s top ten dishes, is also known as "No 1 Scholar Turtle" (Zhuangyuan Turtle). The dish is golden in color, tasty and nutritious.
A legend tells that in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), a candidate for the imperial examination (a kind of talent selection in ancient China) was on his way to the capital. During his stay in Ningbo, he ate this dish in a small restaurant and fell in love with the flavor. When he asked for the name of the dish, the manager of the restaurant replied with the name "No 1 Scholar Turtle" as a good wish for the customer. Luckily, the competitor earned the top score in the examination, becoming the No 1 Scholar (Zhuangyuan) of the year.
Thinking the dish he ate in Ningbo had brought him the luck, he returned to the restaurant naming the dish "No 1 Scholar Turtle" and the restaurant "No 1 Restaurant”. Later on, the dish gained further reputation and became renowned at home and abroad.
Dry Fried River Eel (Guoshao Manyu)
Ningbo has lots of rivers and lakes, and thus it is abundant with river eels.
The cooking process of the dish is complicated and skillful. Chefs prepare 0.5 kg eel, cook it until soft, remove the bones, and fry it with spices. The successfully-cooked dish should be attractive in shape, golden in color, fresh and slightly sweet in taste.
Yellow Croaker with Sea Cucumber (Huangyu Haishen)
This nutritious dish is made up of yellow croaker and sea cucumber. To prepare the dish, cooks select a fresh yellow croaker, steam it and remove the bones, then cook it with slices of sea cucumber and seasonings. The dish is best when served with wine.
Fried Lichen Cubes (Taicai Xiaofangkao)
This dish is made from fried slices of pork belly, lichen slices seasoned with Shaoxing wine, red preserved bean curd and sugar. Because of its nice shape and color, the dish is incredibly appetizing and goes well with wine.
Goose Liver Fried with Veal Fat (Wangyou Bao'e'gan)
With a long history of over 2,000 years, this delicious and nutritious dish is prepared from goose liver, which is fried and seasoned with spices, chopped scallions and paper powder.
Yellow Croaker Fried with Lichen (Taicai Tuo Huangyu)
This dish is filled with unique Ningbo local flavor. It is made from fried yellow croaker and lichen powder, best served with vinegar.
Fried Yellow Croaker with Bean Curd Sheet (Fupi Bao Huangyu)
This unique Ningbo dish should be prepared by a very skillful cook, though the process looks simple. The croakers are wrapped in bean curd sheets, cut it into blocks and then fried until they turn golden. Vinegar is necessary for the fish.
Ningbo-style Rice Eel Slices (Ningbo Shansi)
This unique dish is cooked with fresh rice eel slices, slices of ginger, a Shaoxing wine sauce and other spices.
Steamed Chicken in Soup (Huozhong Quanji)
To prepare this nutritious dish, chefs cook a homebred hen, keeping the liver and heart in the bird, then steaming it with sliced mushroom, edible tree fungi and bamboo shoots.
Great Croaker with Pickled Cabbage (Xucai Dahuangyu)
This dish is full of unique Ningbo local flavor. Cooks prepare fresh fried big yellow croaker, cooking it with pickled potherb mustard (a special local vegetable) and other seasonings.