Zhanjiang is famous for its seafood, such as conch sashimi. [Photo provided to China Daily]
Located on an inlet of the South China Sea, the harbor city of Zhanjiang is a bustling hub for the seafood trade.
For those who want to enjoy warm weather and delicious food, a trip to Zhanjiang city in Guangdong province - about four hours by flight from Beijing - is a good idea.
Located on an inlet of the South China Sea, the harbor city with a coastline of about 1,500 kilometers is a bustling hub for the seafood trade.
There, the locals often cook food by blanching and boiling to keep the original flavors of ingredients. Also, as it used to be a French concession for 40 years, tourists can see old French architecture in the city.
It's said that one of the best ways to know about a city is to visit its food market.
In Zhanjiang, it's the seafood market that tells you about its deep connection with the sea.
The market boasts all kinds of fresh seafood, ranging from crabs and prawns to shellfish. Vendors there are busy weighing the seafood for customers. Even the air smells like the salty ocean.
To really sample Zhanjiang's seafood, one mustn't miss the peanut worms, which are found in the tidal zones.
They are local delicacies mainly in the Guangdong, Fujian and Hainan provinces and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
In Zhanjiang, locals like to steam the worms with minced garlic, and use cellophane noodles as the base.
A bowl of peanut worm soup will make your mouth water.
But the ultimate delicacy is peanut worm sashimi dipped in soy sauce and mustard.
It's fresh, delicious and a bit sweet, with a nice texture.
It is the city's clean water that ensures a good environment for the peanut worms.
Another favorite is the oyster.
Zhanjiang is famous for its seafood, such as braised and grilled oyster flesh. [Photo provided to China Daily]
You can enjoy its tender and sweet flavor by having fresh oysters with lemon juice.
Other cooking methods are to braise and grill oyster flesh on a plate of hot stones, or to steam the oyster with sauces.
The city's warm weather and clean water make it a good place for oysters.
Using gloves, oyster farmers remove mud from the oyster brood stock and separate them into spats.
They then use cement to fix the oyster spats onto ropes and put the ropes into water.
It takes about eight months for oyster spats to mature.
Zhanjiang chicken is among the top three chicken breeds in Guangdong province. Its characteristic is that its feathers, feet and skin are yellow.
The chicken farms are often in mountainous areas, where the birds eat grains and worms and drink spring water. The Zhanjiang chicken grows slowly and it is bigger than a normal bird.
A local well-known dish is tender boiled chicken.
A perfect match for the fragrant chicken is a sauce of chopped sand ginger (a local herb used in cooking).
Speaking about the city's food, Yan Tao, a Cantonese food critic, and an adviser of A Bite of China, a popular Chinese documentary about Chinese food, says: "Zhanjiang has lots of good-quality seafood. I like the tasty peanut worms, which are not easy to catch."
Meanwhile, influenced by Western dining, some high-end Chinese restaurants are starting to present their dishes as starters, main dishes and desserts, making it easy for wine pairing.
Separately, overseas wineries and wine associations are starting to encourage Chinese diners to match their wines with Chinese food.
In recent years, Hennessy cognac from France has organized trips to Chinese cities including Zhanjiang to promote wine pairing.
Yan says Hennessy V.S.O.P's fruit flavor makes it a good match for many dishes.
He recommends that gourmets pair Hennessy Paradis with seafood such as lobster because of its silky richness and notes of juicy fruits.
Hennessy X.O is a good match for food with high fat content, such as tender boiled chicken and grilled oysters.
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