Soak everything in rice wine sauce
A plate of sliced soaked sheep's feet in rice wine sauce. [Photo/hangzhou.com.cn]
It wouldn't feel right if there wasn't at least one wine-seasoned dish on the dining table of a Hangzhou resident.
Rice wine sauce, or draff, created from distilling wine from grains, can season almost everything, from raw food such as seafood to cooked food like chicken, pork, chicken feet, duck's gizzard and green soy bean.
A so-called "drunken" dish can be made by first cooking the ingredients thoroughly or directly soaking them (mostly seafood) in the rice wine sauce for a couple of hours or as long as one to two days.
The tradition of soaking food in rice wine sauce can be dated back to the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). Such dishes were popular in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), when Hangzhou, then known as Lin'an, was the capital.
Soaked sheep's feet in rice wine sauce is the most popular dish, as sheep raised in the northern part of China have a distinctive flavor and taste when seasoned in a southern Chinese style.
The sheep's feet are first blanched in cold water and simmered with ginger slices, green Chinese onion and white radish for one hour. After natural cooling and boning, the sheep's feet are wrapped in preservative film, pricked with a few holes, and then soaked in rice wine sauce and refrigerated for 12 hours. The cold dish can be served after unwrapping and slicing.