一、苏州美食: 当地名菜

Chinese food is popular everywhere. No matter where you go, there’s probably a Chinese restaurant! However, at least in Spain, until very recently it was not easy to find a Chinese restaurant that served things different from the usual fare of fried rice, spring rolls and sweet and sour pork. Which are totally fine, but there’s so much more variety in Chinese food! Savoury, spicy, sweet or sour, every region in China has its own cuisine where one flavour prevails. In Suzhou, in case you were wondering, sweet is king! Let’s see which are some of the most famous local dishes here.


– Sweet and sour fish, a.k.a squirrel fish

- 糖醋鱼,又名松鼠桂鱼

This is the absolute star of any meal with guests. It’s a whole fish cut in a way that resembles the tail of a squirrel (or that’s what Chinese people say), battered, fried and covered in an orange sweet and sour sauce. It’s quite a sight and very tasty, but better make sure that the piece you take is well covered in sauce, you can literally taste it. (I have to say this: fish and seafood is not too good in China, at least for someone who comes from Spain. But nothing that cannot be fixed with a delicious sauce).

这绝对是与客人共进晚餐的亮点菜。这是一整条鱼,切得像松鼠的尾巴(中国人是这么说的) ,搅拌,煎炸,再淋上糖醋酱。这种鱼看起来不错,味道也很好,最好确保你吃的那块上面涂满了酱汁,你可以真正地品尝它的味道。(我不得不说: 鱼和海鲜在中国不太好吃,至少对于来自西班牙的人来说是这样。但没有什么是不能用美味的酱汁来调配的)。

– Eel in oil


There are many lakes around Suzhou, so many of the popular local dishes contain aquatic animals. By the way, if a shrimp from the sea is seafood, a shrimp from the lake is… lakefood? Or is it also called seafood? This dish is made with yellow eel cut longitudinally and covered with a brown sauce. When it’s brought to the table, the waiter pours hot oil on top. I always joke and say this is snake… because it looks like it!

苏州周围有许多湖泊,许多当地的流行菜肴都含有水生动物。顺便说一下,如果从海里来的虾是海鲜,那么从湖里来的虾就是湖鲜吗?还是也叫海鲜?这道菜是把黄鳝纵切,并覆盖一层棕色的酱汁。端上桌后,服务员在上面倒热油。我总是开玩笑说这是蛇, 因为它看起来很像蛇!

– Stir fried shrimp

- 清炒虾仁

This is a very simple dish that Suzhounese love to eat. C. always orders it when we are eating with guests, and it is also served in weddings and New Year dinners. It consists of very small shrimp, peeled and stir fried with a bit of cornstarch, and then eaten with a bit of soy sauce. C. always jokes and says the shrimp are peeled by toothless grandmas who use their gums to do the job.


– Lotus root stuffed with glutinous rice and sprinkled with osmanthus flowers

- 桂花糖藕

I like all kinds of food and I eat my way through this list without any problems, but this is my favourite. The lotus root is crunchy and juicy at the same time, the rice is sticky and the sauce is sweet. Yummy! According to Baidu, this recipe is originally from Zhejiang, but you can find it in all the Suzhounese food restaurants.


– Suzhou-style noodle soup

- 苏式汤面

It is said that northern Chinese eat noodles and southern Chinese eat rice, but even though Suzhou is considered to be south, noodles are very popular here. The local noodles are very long and thin and in their most basic version they are served only with the broth and a bit of chopped chives, but there are many other varieties with toppings added. I was googling Suzhou noodles and came across this article, in which a Shanghai fanboy discovers them. Hehe. It seems he was really impressed: “[…] right here, in Shanghai’s backyard, is a noodle culture that is as sophisticated as Japan, among the most delicious things you can eat in China, and accessible by train in 30 minutes. Suzhou”.


– Meat mooncakes

- 鲜肉月饼

These are called mooncakes, like the ones eaten during Mid-Autumn Festival, but they have nothing to do with them. They are sold all year round and are actually very good! As their name clearly indicates, the filling is meat and, like most Suzhou food, they are slightly sweet. These are not eaten in restaurants but bought in bakeries and eaten as a snack, but I added them to the list because as far as I know they are only available in the Yangtze river delta area.


You might have noticed that there’s not much “green” in these dishes. Vegetables are ordered during meals and banquets to balance the abundance of sauces and fat in other dishes, but they are usually just stir fried greens that are not considered a local speciality.


Have you tried any of these Suzhou foods? What’s your favourite type of Chinese food?


Last Saturday we went to Luzhi, a nearby water town, for a quick visit because C.’s company had a Women’s Day activity for their female employees there and as C. is the head of that office , we walked around the old town a bit. It was cloudy and the weather forecast had said it was going to rain, so there wasn’t many people. We took a few pictures, saw a few cats, ate a bowl of local noodles and a warm flat bread… We also bought some pickled vegetables, which are a local speciality, and the shop attendants were wondering aloud if C. was Japanese. They were talking in Suzhou dialect but even I could understand them! Chinese people tend to think foreigners cannot speak Chinese so they often talk about you in front of you.

上周六,我们去了甪直古镇,一个苏州附近的水上小镇,进行了一次短暂的参观,因为C.的公司为他们的女性员工举办了一个妇女节活动,而C.是那个办公室的主管,我们在老城区走了一圈。天气多云,天气预报说要下雨,所以人不多。我们拍了几张照片,看到了几只猫,吃了一碗当地的面条和一块热乎乎的扁面包, 我们还买了一些当地特产泡菜,店员们大声问C.是不是日本人。他们在用苏州方言说话,但我都听得懂!中国人认为外国人不会说中文,他们会经常在你面前谈论你。