Zhouzhuang is a town in Jiangsu Province that lies between Shanghai and Suzhou. This ancient town has more than 900 years of history, with many houses built in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The place has been called “The Venice of the East,” and it does kind of remind me of a Chinese version of Venice, with all of its canals and boats transporting people from place to place.
Many say that it’s one of China’s best water towns, and we also heard that they had the best Ti Pang (蹄髈), which is a dish of slowly stewed pork shoulder. So when we visited Shanghai last year, we had to go check it out. We booked a one-day tour after consulting with the hotel concierge; though it was an organized tour, in this case I think it was the best bet for a quick day trip, since you don’t have to worry about navigating public transportation for that one day. We found a local Chinese tour, but there are also foreign/English-speaking tours available. Here are some cool scenes we snapped of the town while browsing through its countless stores and street vendors.
This is a rare shot of Cormorants used by Chinese Fisherman in the old days. These birds are trained with rings around their necks so they can’t swallow the fish they catch. Seems a bit inefficient to me, which is probably why this method is mostly practiced as an ancient art today.
But now, to the Ti Pang (蹄髈)!
Ti Pang is actually the upper part of the pig’s front leg and is just the right size for stewing and braising. The folks in Zhouzhuang have definitely perfected this dish. I have to say that I have had a lot of Ti Pang in my time, including versions at fine restaurants, hole-in-the-wall places that focus on great home cooking and of course, my mother-in-law’s version which I thought was the best.
After ZhouZhuang’s famous version, though, I have to conclude that it is by far the best and one of the tastiest pork dishes I have ever had. I took this quick photo before I started drooling. The entire place smelled heavenly. I can see why these Ti Pangs were so tasty, as they were cooking huge numbers of them in these large vats and the resulting stewing liquid just got tastier with each one that was cooked. We should have grandma’s version of the recipe posted soon.
This is a funny picture I took of Judy peering into the glass enclosure where the Ti Pangs were cooked. Judy’s looking quite content waiting in line for one of these babies!
Needless to say, we had a tasty lunch that day and brought a few vacuum-packed edible souvenirs back to Beijing!