We were invited out to lunch by Bao Lan, the Curator/Director of the Lingering Garden. This is a 5+ acre complex, and the original garden dates to the Ming dynasty. More on that later, just to say that she’s head honcho of quite a spread.
Anyway, she introduced us to some delicious local dishes. I’m going to list some of them here and then attach a gallery of photos, so apologies for not being able to match things up better while I’m working with a tiny phone. I’ll try to attach them in the same order as the list and we’ll see what happens!
The highlight of the meal was a unique local dish made with ginkgo fruit, lily, and something called Gorgon fruit. Gorgon fruit grows as a giant pod in water. The shell of the pod must be opened by hand, machines can’t do it, so the dish is pricey. The Gorgon fruit grows throughout China, but the stuff grown here is particularly lath and a local specialty. It’s like a giant, soft rice. Maybe kind of a barley flavor to it. They’re the size of large peas or small chickpeas.
Some of the other dishes were:
Pork tendon and sea cucumber (not my favorite, kind of like tough calamari, but slippery.)
Braised Eel with garlic (yum, one of my favorites!)
Pigeon broth soup (just like chicken broth.)
Local cauliflower in a delicious sweet vinegar chili (delish! This was a table favorite.)
Scrambled egg with small fish (yum!)
Spicy edamame (everybody knows edamame , right? Although the chili was a good addition.)
Braised local baby water celery (super yum, but where will I find water celery sprouts at home?)
Spicy wood ear mushrooms (I didn’t bother to take a picture of them, since you’ve already seen them in my breakfast reports. These are like a condiment with everything, and I just love them. Add them to anything on your plate for a new flavor dimension!)
Whole shrimp in broth (delicious, but challenging to eat, holding a slippery shrimp with chopsticks, trying to bite the head off and slurp out just the inside shrimpy part. I gave up after four or five.)
Welcome shrimp (really popular, just baby shrimp in a white wine sauce.)
Taihu Mandarin Fish in Sweet and Sour sauce –a 250 year old local recipe. But you’ve probably had sweet and sour, so nothing shocking there! The presentation of the yawning fish head is everything.