Suzhou: East China's Best Noodles

Noodles in Shanghai suck. They are often mushy, bland and made solely to fill people up. Suzhou is different. It has been a rich city for centuries, more than enough time to develop a highly refined food culture. One of the things that stands out so starkly is how seasonal Suzhou's food is. Summer is the time for fengzhen noodles and for three-shrimp noodles, and the latter are only around for a number of weeks. Read this story for more.

This tour takes you to three of the city's best noodle restaurants: Tong De Xing, Yu Xing Ji, and Yu Mian Zhai. They are all different styles and all excellent. At Tong De Xing, we'll go for their fengzhen noodles, which is all about the broth, made from an expensive stock containing pork bones, eel bones, whole hens and more. At Yu Xing Ji, we'll split the order: five three-shrimp noodles, made with tiny peeled river shrimp, their eggs (like the smallest caviar ever) and the gunk from the head (much better than it sounds). And five "er mian huang", or two sides yellow, a crispy fried noodle topped with peeled river shrimp and stewed pork tendon. Yu Xing Ji is more than 300 years old and a noodle powerhouse. From there, we'll cross the street to Yu Mian Zhai, a newcomer in the world of Suzhou noodles that is carving out a niche for very high quality and luxury ingredients. Here, we'll try five of the owners' three-shrimp noodles, which are done differently than Yu Xing Ji, and five wild duck noodles, a deeply rich and dark broth stewed with a duck thigh and leeks.

The tour is led by food writer Chris St. Cavish, and his irreverent take on food. He'll go through some of the history of the dishes and the restaurants, and try to get us into the kitchen to see the all-important soup bases, though that's up to the whim of the chef on any given day.

The ticket includes round-trip transport to Suzhou in a private van (pickup at a central location in Shanghai), the cost of the noodles at all three restaurants (they are not cheap!!) and St. Cavish as the guide. It should take a total of four to five hours, and has to start early in the morning -- noodle shops in Suzhou get rammed at 10am and sell out by 1pm.

Sorry vegetarians, we'd love to have you, but the broths are all based on meat stocks and there's no way around that.
2017-06-10 2017-06-18

Suzhou: East China's Best Noodles


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