As the weather has turned cold, there is truly one suitable meal that warms the cockles of your heart and brings people together – Hot Pot or huo guo. Hot Pot is perhaps one of the most widely enjoyed meals in China. You can travel as far north as Mongolia to find this popular dish, go west to Sichuan, even way down south in the warm climates of Hong Kong you will be able to find Hot Pot in some various iteration. And it doesn’t stop there. It goes by the name Steamboat in some Southeast Asian countries and nabemono in Japan, with varieties including Shabu Shabu and Sukiyaki. Go to Korea, Vietnam, and even Thailand, and you can find their own versions of this broth-based meal. Sure, China remains famous for dumplings, dim sum, and other tasty delicacies, but if you are a foreigner residing in China, you have certainly at one point or another come across the ubiquitous presence of Hot Pot.
Let’s pause for a little bit of history on this steaming delight. It’s widely believed to have been introduced by the Mongolian nomads over a thousand years ago. One version puts forth that Mongol warriors couldn’t be bothered to carry cooking utensils, so they rigged their shields over the fire to sear meat and turned their helmets upside down to boil the soup (which was essentially water). This early Hot Pot included a wide variety of whatever meats were on hand, but generally mutton was favored. Hot Pot slowly trickled south, and by the Tang Dynasty, it had become famous. During the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty, Hot Pot flourished, certainly due in part to who ruled the country, and when the Qing Dynasty hit, regional varieties could be found in all the four corners of China.
Most people know very little of this history, but what they do know is that when winter rolls around, it’s time to fire up those burners and gather around a steaming pot of broth with their near and dear ones. Sit huddled around a pot for a few hours and you will slowly perform a striptease of all your many winter layers. Things have really changed in a thousand years though. A round table houses a now modern mechanized burner that heats a giant metal pot containing a broth, and sometimes two, in which you can cook a colorful array of chosen meats, seafood, vegetables, noodles, and other accoutrements. (What would a Mongolian of the old school have to say about an induction tabletop burner???) Condiments are on hand to make a sauce for you to dip your cooked goodies in, after which each person can drink the flavorsome soup. Hot Pot is not a meal for a single person. There have been more and more mini Hot Pot restaurants popping up in recent years – something about them being more hygienic and giving everyone the chance to make their own choices – but Hot Pot is a communal meal meant to be shared with friends and family in a fun and lively atmosphere. These places just kill that experience.
The sheer size of China means that there are many regional varieties of Hot Pot to try; all are worthy of your taste buds. And while there are many types of Hot Pot, most dining experiences go pretty much the same way. First, you choose your broth. For the spicier varieties, there is generally the option of a split pot containing a spicy broth and a bone broth. Order it in the event there are some in your party that just can’t handle the heat; this way even the wusses can enjoy the primordial thrill of cooking their grub in a bubbling cauldron. Next, you choose your dunkables. Standard selections to include are paper-thin slices of fat-streaked mutton and beef, some form of tofu, vegetables, balls of seafood and pork variety, seafood and noodles. Finally, you need your condiments. This is the point where tastes diverge. Some places have condiments arranged at dedicated stations; others you order off the menu (or tick on the paper menu). Regardless of how you get your sauces, the number of choices can be a bit overwhelming if you are new to the game. It takes a lot of mixing and matching to get the right concoction to suit your taste, but it’s one of the little things that makes Hot Potting so damned interesting.
Eating Hot Pot is definitely not a passive activity. Once your raw smorgasbord arrives and is placed next your table on trays, the fun really begins. You dunk the morsels into the hot stock, watch them dance around together in the soup, fish them out with ladles, dip them into your bowl of condiments, gobble them down, and, in a brow-mopping, belt-loosening fervor, repeat ad infinitum. The point of Hot Pot, after all, is unbridled excess. To help you navigate this unfamiliar territory, here are a few tips: Some things take a little longer to cook, like potatoes, fish balls and some seafood, so if you want to throw them in the pot, let everyone know so they can scoop out some food. Also, watch out for those potatoes: they’ll burn the hell outa your mouth. One final warning, beware of the meat: It has a tendency to furl in the broth and when it’s fished out with the ladle, can conceal a few lethal chilies. It’s best to use the chopsticks to grab it, or even better to dip it briefly as it doesn’t take long to cook.
Speaking of chilies, arguably the most famous regional variety of Hot Pot would have to be the Chongqing Hot Pot style. Named after this spicy city in the western part of China, it is notable for ma-la – having to do with the numbing and spicy additions of Sichuan peppercorns and hot peppers. Often times this Hot Pot style is served in a pot that is split into two sections which resemble the Daoist yin and yang symbols. One side of the pot houses the molten spicy broth while the other side holds a benign bone broth. The Hunan style of Hot Pot is similarly spicy but lacks the numbing quality made famous by the Chongqing and Sichuan Styles. Sichuan Hot Pot tends to go heavy on the seafood or fish, while Hunanese has more beef or mutton along with its spicy chilies. Chowing down on any of these fiery three will send you in search of something to cool down your mouth. Plum juice does the trick, and it’s is commonly found at any Hot Pot restaurant these days, but a cold beer certainly achieves the same results. Baijiu also pairs rather well with Hot Pot.
Not into the spicy? That’s quite alright. There are plenty of milder Hot Pots to choose from. The Northern Style, commonly found in Beijing, focuses more on the act of cooking and is referred to as shuan yangrou, meaning the act of scalding thin slices of mutton in boiling broth. Frozen meat, generally mutton, is sliced thinly causing it to roll up and is generally served this way. This is paired with sesame-based condiments and sauces. A traditional Mongolian Hot Pot includes all kinds of spices, one of which, bajiao huixiang, or star anise, is thought to warm yang, disperse cold, and rectify qi problems. Manchurian Hot Pot uses pickled Chinese vegetables, or suancai (literally meaning sour vegetable), for flavoring, resulting in a sour stew. Cantonese Hot Pot, popular in southern China and Hong Kong, is more heavily focused on the soup bases of Hot Pot. The broth has additions of Chinese herbs (similar to those of the Mongolian Hot Pot) as these herbs are seen as balancing the heat found in Hot Pot. Seafood is obviously also more popular in Cantonese Hot Pot.
Hot Pot cooking is often enjoyed at home during festivals since it requires little preparation and the participatory element is fun for a large group. It is easy to buy a portable electric burner, and you just need a wide, deep pot that will comfortably hold boiling soup without boiling over. Don’t use too deep of a pot, or you will spend too much time fishing for your food. Hot Pot can then be customized to your own style and liking. So grab your family and start a new tradition this year by enjoying this Chinese dish. But if DIY Hot Pot is not your thing, do not despair because MORE Hangzhou has compiled a list of the top ten Hot Pot restaurants in Hangzhou to help take the guesswork out of finding the perfect pot for your seasonal pleasure. These are surely the best and brightest Hot Pots available, running the gamut of styles. We have even included a Japanese and Thai Style on the list because they are both lip smackin’ good. So plop til you pop!
1. Haidilao 海底捞 (Sichuan Style, 24hours)
Why is Haidilao number one on this list? For two very good reasons: Not only is their Hot Pot some of the best available in Hangzhou, but their service is without equal. Ladies you can have your nails done for free after you eat! Board games are available, snacks while you wait, bathroom attendants, constant hot towels, and a cheerful staff. Cute aprons are on hand to keep the splash from the Hot Pot off of your precious clothes. You cannot tell me there is another restaurant around with this level of service. They also offer Hot Pot delivery. Order from a number of set meals that will feed a varying number of people, and everything (down to the condiments) is then delivered to your home. The extensive picture menu, while not in English, is easily to use with the help of their friendly staff.
5/F, Yongjin Square, 135 Yan’an Road 延安路135号涌金广场5楼 , Tel: 87088050
502 Zhongdu Department Store, 87-1 Qingchun Road 庆春路87-1号中都百货502号, Tel: 81606592, 81606593
3/F, Yefeng Xiandai Zhixing Mansion, 337 Shaoxing Road 绍兴路337号野风现代之星大厦3楼333号, Tel: 85366389, 85366390
2. Lao Matou 老码头 (Sichuan Style, 24 hours)
You no longer have to fly off to Chengdu to enjoy this Sichuan Style Hot Pot. The best way to do it up here is get a half Sichuan and half savory broth, so you can give your mouth a rest. Six people can comfortably eat for around 400RMB, and the sour plum juice here is the best for washing all those chilies down. The numbing peppercorns bubble away in their copper cauldron waiting for you to dunk your veggies, seafood, meats, and noodles. The great thing about it is this place is open till 3am. So during the winter months if you find yourself a bit peckish after shaking your money maker at Coco Banana, wander down to this Hot Pot place with all your club kid friends.
24 Baochu Road 保俶路24号, Tel: 85118818
262 Wantang Road 万塘路262号，Tel: 87671679
3/F, 66 Dongpo Road 东坡路66号3楼(近西湖时代广场), Tel: 87081218, 81061116
3. King Pot 幸福里 or Dong Lai Shun 东来顺 (Beijing Style, 11:30am - 9:30pm)
King Pot located in the northern part of Hangzhou on Jinhua Road next to Me Too Café and the 166 Loft Park, King Pot boasts an elegant sparse open layout, and instead of giant metal pots, here you’ll find real traditional gleaming copper Hot Pots commonly found in Beijing. This is my personal favorite Hot Pot restaurant as it reminds me of freezing cold days in Beijing. Their fantastic baijiu selection brings back vivid memories as well and is available starting at 16RMB. If you cannot stand baijiu, there is also Beijing Plum Juice (老字号信远斋酸梅汤) 12RMB available to quench your thirst. We recommend the Shrimp Paste (鲜虾滑) 46RMB; it looks kind of horrifying sitting on its platter awaiting submersion into its boiling bath, but once you’ve tasted the cooked version, you’ll begin eagerly searching for those little pink balls. Condiments include traditional Beijing sesame sauce (老北京麻酱调料) 6RMB, and special Beijing spicy sauce (幸福里特色麻辣调料) 6RMB. Also, don’t forget the Deep Fried Sliced Mantou (烤馒头片), Old Beijing-style Baked Sesame Cake (salty/sweet) (老北京芝麻火烧) 3RMB/one, and the Beijing-style Noodles with Soy Bean Paste (炸酱面) 18RMB. Prices for meat range from 38RMB to 168RMB (for Angus steak), and vegetables and side dishes are between 10 and 20RMB each. If you have not tried Beijing Style Hot Pot, this is the best place to do it!
King Pot: 50m south of Dengyun Road and Jinhua Road (Silian 166) 登云路和金华路往南50米 (丝联166内), Tel: 85047210
Dong Lai Shun: 488 Qingtai Street 清泰街488号, 10am - 10pm, Tel: 87820666
4. Chuan Wei Guan 川味观 (Sichuan Style, 10:30am – 4am)
This chain has been cooking up tasty Sichuan Style Hot Pot in Hangzhou for years. They are everywhere, so it’s easy to get your spicy Hot Pot fix. Their pots have an authentic flavor, and it is a favorite spot for those who love a bit of numbing Sichuan peppercorn action. The vegetable offerings are par for the course, and you won’t find anything else out of the ordinary here, but this is a good option for when you and your friends want a convenient place to gather around a bubbling pot of chilies. Unfortunately, the menu is only in Chinese, but there are photos, so don’t fret my pets.
539-3 Fengqi Road 凤起路539-3号, Tel: 87795866
580 North Zhongshan Road 中山北路580号, Tel: 85393226
222 Tanhuan Road 昙花庵路222号, Tel: 86037988
160 Moganshan Road 莫干山路160号, Tel: 88807166
166 Huansha Road 浣纱路166号, Tel: 87917669
80 Fengqi Road 凤起路80号, Tel: 85284293
109 West Wensan Road 文三西路109号, Tel: 88983338, 88975557
10 Gushui Street 古水街10号, Tel: 85393226
82 Tiancheng Road 天城路82号, Tel: 88391277, 88399577
978 Dongxin Road 东新路978号, Tel: 85283777
1-2/F, Qianlong Masion, Binsheng Road and Jianghan Road 滨盛路与江汉路交叉口钱龙大厦1-2楼, Tel: 87022666
Kairui Hotel, 1199 Hanghai Road 杭海路1199号凯瑞大酒店, Tel: 86909777
20 West Huancheng Road 环城西路20号, Tel: 87014552
5. Lotus Thai Hot Pot 莲一泰式火锅·料理 (Thai Style, 10am - 9pm)
Located near Homestead Café on Wensan and Jiaogong Roads, this Thai Steamboat restaurant is fantastic if you are hankerin’ for some Hot Pot but can’t drum up the required friends. Here they serve Thai-style individual Hot Pots that will seriously light your mouth up. Try their delicious Tom Yum Hot Pot (东荫功汤锅) and their Pineapple Curry Hot Pot (咖喱菠萝锅). The menu is not in English, nor are there any pictures, but the prices are cheap, so fumbling your way through the ordering process is well worth the awkwardness. Their Hot Pot is so delicious, you will want to drink the soup after eating all your tasty morsels. Wash it all down with a great Singha beer for 15RMB, and you will have a fantastic Thai Steamboat experience.
3/F, Liyuan Mansion, 88 Jiaogong Road 教工路88号立元大厦3楼, Tel: 87006655
6. Yu Xianglong Chongqing Hot Pot 渝香隆重庆火锅城 (Chongqing Style, 24 hours)
Located on Baochu Road, this Chongqing Style Hot Pot is not for the faint of heart. Be prepared for your hair and clothes to smell like what you’ve just devoured. In fact, we suggest not even bothering to shower before coming here. “So, why do people come here?” you might ask. Because, they have the best Chongqing Style Hot Pot in town. Again, the menu is only in Chinese, so if you are feeling your Chinese isn’t up to snuff, we recommend bringing a friend along who speaks Chinese. The place is open 24hrs and really gets hoppin’ around 2am. The snakehead fish (黑鱼片) is delicious, and we also recommend getting the rice cake (年糕). The rest of the veggies are rather commonplace, but if you are feeling adventurous, don’t forget the more exciting meats on hand, like stomach. Yum! This place is great for late night Hot Pot cravings!
106 Baochu Road 保俶路106号, Tel: 85111020
25 Desheng Road 德胜路25号, Tel: 85832955
423 Shangtang Road 上塘路423号, Tel: 88321711
7. Doulao Fang豆捞坊 (Mixed Style, 11am – 9:30pm)
This Taiwanese Style Hot Pot restaurant is located near Wulin Shopping Center, so after you work up an appetite window shopping, head here for a mini Hot Pot experience. Each person has their own individual Hot Pot to which you can add excellent fresh seafood, vegetables, and other tasty treats. All the required condiments are here: sesame sauce, peanut butter, XO sauce, spicy peppers, and more. It is a great place for those times when you and a friend want something warm after wandering up and down Yan’an Road shopping all day. The restaurant is tranquil and feels worlds away from the busy shopping environs you’ve just come from. We suggest doing lunch here as it can get rather busy during dinnertime. They have delicious fresh meat balls (丸子), rice cake with cheese in the middle (年糕，里面有芝士), and their beef is extremely fresh. They won most popular Hot Pot restaurant in 2013, so you know this place knows what it’s doing! Try it, you won’t be sorry!
CQ703, 7/F, Block C, Hangzhou Mansion, 230 North Huancheng Road 环城北路230号杭州大夏购物城C座裙楼7楼CQ703号(近武林广场), Tel: 85177277, 88151807
401, Zone A, Hubin InTime Mall, 258 Yan’an Road 延安路258号湖滨银泰2期A区401室, Tel: 85870555
521, 5/F, Mixc Mall, 701 Fuchun Road 富春路701号万象城5楼521号, Tel: 89705688
8. Happy House Shabu Shabu 福捞坊海鲜肥牛火锅城 (Mixed Style, 10am - 12am)
A Hot Pot restaurant can be impressive depending on the broth, the food, or the sauce bar. Happy House, on the northwest corner of Tianmushan and Baochu Roads, manages to impress with their quality and presentation as well as with their collection of condiments; their broth isn’t half bad either! This is Japanese Style Hot Pot, so if you have never tasted Shabu Shabu before, you should for sure give it a try. There are pictures on the menu, but no English, and the Hot Pots come in individual portions. We started out by ordering four different broths: Sichuan Spicy (捞坊绿色锅) 15RMB, Traditional Spicy (捞坊香辣锅) 12RMB, Tomato (西式番茄锅) 15RMB, and Plain (顶级清汤) 10RMB. Traditional Spicy was the resounding favorite. It was full of flavor and wasn’t intensely spicy. Want a feast for the eyes? Order some of the non-Hot Pot dishes. The Thin Sliced Mandarin Fish (鲑鱼姿造) 88/149RMB was beautifully presented on a bed of shaved ice with liquid nitrogen steam pouring out of fresh bamboo cuttings. Even a simple dish like Bean Sprouts (豆芽) 6RMB was arranged as a flower blooming out of the bowl, and The Four Color Dumplings (四色水饺) 28RMB were as delicious as they were colorful.
2 North Baochu Road 保俶北路2号, Tel: 28821118
9. Nasubi 纳思比日本料理 (Mixed Style, 11am - 1:30pm, 5:30pm - 10:30pm)
Nasubi is the most authentic Sukiyaki Style Hot Pot in Hangzhou. Originating in Shizouka, with over ten restaurants and counting, this place is top-of-the-line Japanese Hot Pot. The interior is pure elegance and was designed by Junichiro Sato. This place is perhaps the most expensive on our top ten, but trust us it is worth every yuan. A meal here will be at least 250RMB/person, and if you are feeling extravagant, you can try a Japanese Hairy Crab that is 1,000RMB! The saki is smooth and a beautiful companion to the exquisite Sukiyaki. An English menu is available, and you would be a fool not to try their Chowder Stew or any of their fresh fish flown in weekly from Japan. This tatami-lined restaurant is as close to a Japanese dining experience as you can get without buying a plane ticket!
4/F, Zhejiang Narada Grand Hotel, 122 Shuguang Road 曙光路122号浙江世贸君澜大饭店4楼, Tel: 87969826
10. Hot Boss 韩国正宗炒年糕 or Zhu En Guan 主恩馆 (Korean Style, 11am – 9:30pm)
Located on Yile Road, just north of West Wen’er Road, Hot Boss has the Korean version of Hot Pot called tteokbokki, or fried sticky rice cakes with cabbage, fishcakes and ramen noodles. The menu is only in Chinese and Korean, but the pictures make it feasible to order without English. Koreans go crazy for this warm street food (which is probably pretty popular right about now in chilly South Korea). A single portion of the hot bubbling stew will only set you back 38RMB, with choices of cheese, BBQ pork, vegetable, curry, and of course kimchee. A gas burner is brought to your table so that you can watch your bubbling concoction cook. Slurp up the noodles along with a cold Korean beer and order a side of Korean fried chicken. The Korean version of Hot Pot is a little different as it is far more of a soup than its Chinese cousin, but this is still a tasty dish to get you through these winter months that are here to stay in Hangzhou.
Hot Boss: 71 Yile Road 益乐路71号, Tel: 86585120
Zhu En Guan: 353 Gudun Road (junction of Jindan Road) 古墩路353号丹枫新村, Tel: 88980021
Inspired by the skills of martial artists Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, 18-year old Tim Vukan and his friends were intrigued by this ancient art. After seeking guidance and training from Ving Tsun Gong Fu instructor Jan Hantelman, a connection was made for life. He shared with us stumbling across a tiny Chinese bookshop and discovering hundreds of books detailing the very art he loved. Intrigued by the images he found within the pages, he often went back to look around. It was here that he found the book that would change his life: Chinese Shaolin Kung Fu. Being the only book he found written in German, it became a part of him, attached to him day and night. After watching a live performance from the Shaolin monks in Hamburg he knew it was time…
After six years of intensive training and teaching in Hamburg and Münster, Tim took the plunge and moved to Dengfeng, Henan to practice directly at the source. Home to many academies and thousands of students, he chose to study at Wushu College where a little girl took him by surprise: “The best teacher I had was a nine-year old girl. She taught me high kicks and how to perform very difficult techniques. She taught me to be honest and kind to people.”
What was the most difficult part of your course?
The most difficult part was we had to train very hard every day no matter what condition our bodies were in. Training started at 5:30am and continued all day until 6-7pm. After three weeks of intensive training, I couldn’t walk up the stairs and suffered from heavy muscle tension pain in my legs. Once I was lying in bed, I felt calm and peaceful until the loud Chinese march music woke me up in the morning and it started all over again. This pain is necessary to understand your body. If you want to perform Shaolin Gong Fu and to reach a high level we must go further to feel what it means to have focus.
In Chinese there is a saying 先苦后甜, which means after hard and bitter work there will be sweetness. It means that we have to work hard if we want to achieve something. Everything we do is to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and to learn how to control our body and our mind in different situations. Our body is sometimes weak. Learning Gong Fu is a way to train our minds to tell our body what to do and when to stop. I learnt jianchi 坚持 – it doesn’t matter if we fail or succeed, it is more important to go on. Our body and mind each have their own language and we are able to control our body with our mind. If there is a strong mind and a clear heart, there is a strong body. Many diseases are based on an imbalance of our body and our mind. If we stay focused in the moment, we can prevent illnesses and have a happier life! Gong Fu is a way to choose health and happiness in your life.
After Henan, Tim moved to Yangshuo, Guangxi province to continue with taiji quan classes. There he met a woman who was offering taiji sword lessons and became her student, learning taiji next to the Li river. She taught him many things like Chinese cooking and the art of bartering. He felt happiness getting to know a culture which he had always wanted to learn more about.
During his travels in 2004, he really enjoyed Hangzhou. Growing up in Hamburg, he was a part of nature. In Hangzhou, he found he could still have that in the beautiful mountains and bamboo forests surrounding the city. From the beginning of his martial arts career, he often came into contact with Chinese medicine. In 2005, he decided to start studying it. In ancient times, masters of Gong Fu were often also doctors of Chinese medicine – it was a natural progression. Zhejiang Chinese Medical University offered him a place.
We hear a lot about the pressure of education in China, did you feel a lot?
The Chinese education system can be very challenging for foreigners. First to master the language and then to get used to the way of teaching. Asking questions doesn’t have much space in classroom; it’s very different to the west. Chinese students are not used to communicating with their teachers, only listening to gain information. This caused a lot of pressure while studying. Preparing for a test required memorizing and repeating facts instead of putting the theory into our own words like back home. Every culture has its own specialties, especially when it comes to education. Now, I often meet young people in the clinic telling me about their life and study and that it made them sick. Young students are often overwhelmed with pressure. I start telling them my story, hoping to inspire them to find their own way to learn.
You’ve founded your own company, how has that been? Do you have good support?
I founded Wushan TCM, a Chinese medical network, with the goal to connect the east with the west and to offer Chinese medicine education to students and current practitioners. There are live webinars and recorded online courses about the theory and practice. I also arrange local treatments for foreigners with Chinese medicine and take care of the language translations and clinical arrangements. I work in cooperation with Chinese medical doctors whom I’ve met during my studies and practice over the past twelve years. I want to help people to come to China and to gain their individual experiences.
You’ve studied tai chi, TCM and lots of other ways of healing. What would you say is the best medicine?
In our modern times a practitioner has to have knowledge from both western and Chinese medicine to offer the patients the most accurate and suitable diagnosis and treatment. Even though western and Chinese medicine are very different from each other, they can be combined in many different ways. While western medicine is treating the illness, Chinese medicine is treating the symptoms of the patient and finding the source. An example of how they work in harmony would involve undergoing surgery for an external injury (western) followed by Chinese medicine to strengthen the patient help to recover in a more comprehensive way. Both medicines have their limitations and their benefits.
I won’t say that TCM is the best medicine. I believe Chinese medicine can help a lot of people, where western medicine cannot. Above all, the best medicine is when people take better care of themselves and gain more understanding of how we can keep healthy and prevent illness. It’s about our lifestyle, our emotions, our living and working environment, our family situation, our nutrition and so much more. I want people to gain more sensibility about their lives and what makes us ill.
What plans do you have for the future?
I would like to combine my life in China with the life in the west. At the moment, I am preparing the German natural license test to be allowed to work and to treat in Germany with Chinese medicine. In the future I want to offer more lectures, seminars and tours in Hangzhou and to give more students the great opportunity to learn from professional doctors. More and more foreigners are interested in coming to China to study TCM. I want to help them however I can. The world will become more connected. Let’s become a part of it!
Tim Vukan has been studying and practicing Chinese medicine for more than ten years at the Zhejiang Chinese Medical University in Hangzhou. He founded Wushan TCM in 2008 to connect Chinese medicine practitioners and students by offering Chinese medicine online courses and training tours to enable an authentic education in the theory and clinical field of Chinese health cultivation methods. To learn more, visit the website at www.wushantcm.com.
I first visited Georgetown, the capital city of Penang Island, Malaysia, in 2008. This was just before Georgetown gained Unesco World Heritage designation. I vividly recall the beauty of the decaying historical buildings dating back to the late 18th century British colonial rule. The multi-coloured shop houses with peeling paint stood stoically, telling countless stories of the centuries gone by.
In 1786, Britain established Georgetown to rival the Dutch trading port Malacca in a bid to gain control of the important trade routethrough the Straits of Malacca which connected Europe, the Middle East and India to the west with China, Southeast Asia and Japan to the east.Georgetown began attracting Chinese, Indian and Malaysian merchants and settlers. Each group broughtalong their language, food and religion making Georgetown a very special mix of cultures living together in harmony.
Georgetown’s Unesco World Heritage zone is a compact, easily manageable area that you can walk around in two to three hours. Start at the grand KapitanKeling mosque, built in 1801 by Indian Muslim settlers with its Mughal-style domes and Indian-Islamic minaret, from where the call to prayer can be heard five times a day.
Then wander around Little India with Bollywood music blaring from shops and colorful silk saris on display. Tantalizing skewers of tandoori meattempt you to stop and nibblewhile tables piled with samosas and Indian sweets are hard to resist.Then further to the north, near the coastline are the British colonial buildings that now house banks, western bars and restaurants.
Turn a corner and head towards the Chinese area with colourfulclan houses, temples and shops. Bustling hawker stalls line the streets, selling Penang’s famous street foods like CharKwayTeow, Chee Cheong Fun and HokkienMee. The Chinese community has roots from Hokkien, Cantonese and Hakka and they here are a linguistically talented bunch who easily switch between conversations in Cantonese, Mandarin, their own Chinese dialects, English and Malay.
By the time I visited in 2008, much of the historic area had fallen into disrepair. Then came the Unesco World Heritage designation breathingrenewed life to Georgetown and historic buildings were restored and converted into cafes and boutique hotels. Previously, Georgetown mainly offered budget guesthouses and one very top end hotel. Now, there’s a growing range of boutique heritage hotels for visitors to choose from.
Campbell House was one of the first boutique hotels to open in Georgetown, and work on converting the building into a hotel began even before the Unesco World Heritage listing was announced. The owners, wife and husband team Nardya Wray and Robert Dreon, both saw the potential in Georgetown and had faith in its future. Nardya has a personal history with Penang, having been born in Malaysia before moving to UK andthen often returning to Penang to visit family.
Robert and Nardya bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience, both coming from successful careers in London’s luxury hospitality industry.The couple embarked on restoring the hundred-year-old corner shophouse, completely gutting the building down to the original beams and structure.Working tirelessly over three years, they lovingly restored the building and filled their dream hotel with antique furniture sourced from around the region.
Campbell House offers eleven suites, each with an individual character representing a different element of colonial Malaysia, such as the Colonial Room with a four poster bed or the Sari Room graced with a headboard made from sari silk.
The rooms are luxuriously appointed and feature modern fixtures and technologies like flat screen TV’s, Nespresso machines, chilly central air-con, rain head showersand newplumbing. You may be staying in a heritage hotel with antique furniture, but you will not lackfor any modern comforts.
Campbell House is located on Campbell Street, right in the heart of Georgetown and makes a great base for exploring the city. The next street over is LebuhChulia, one of the main roads of Georgetown, where you’ll find many bars and street food.
Leaving behind the chaotic colourfulstreetlife and stepping into the peaceful tranquility of Campbell House, the first thing you will notice is the lovely lemongrass scent. Then the friendly receptionist will get you checked-in and pull out a map to show you where to find the best food and attractions.
Respecting the original architecture, there are no elevators in this three story house, but the hotel staff will use a clever pulley system to get your luggage to the top floor. Smoking is not permitted indoors, but you can do so on the rooftop terrace.
As is the tradition in Malaysian houses, guests have to leave their shoes in the public area before proceeding upstairs to the rooms. This ensures that the living areas are immaculately clean and you get the warm feeling that you are an honoured guest in a private house. Each guest receives personalized attention and you can even make special requests for breakfast to suit your dietary needs. The library invites guests to lounge and chat with each other and we had many lively conversations with our fellow travelers there.
Rooms are cleaned twice a day, and atnight they will leave iced tea and some sweet treats in the fridge. The soft and fluffy king-sized feather-topped bed is so comfortable, there seems to be a magic spell around it because as soon as you lay down you almost immediately fall asleep.
Breakfastis served in their Italian restaurant from 8am-12pm, so guests can leisurely sleep in or go out for an early morning walk before temperatures get too hot and still have ample time to return and enjoy breakfast.The breakfast spread includes a basket of freshly baked bread, a selection of housemade jams like coconut, orange marmalade and pineapple, a large platter of fresh fruit and a choice of entrée such as Eggs Benedict or Welsh Rarebit.
Their Italian Restaurant, Il Bacaro, draws on Robert’s Italian roots and offers an alternative to local cuisine. As much as I love curries and fried noodles, sometimes you just crave a fine Italian meal. It’s become a trendy dining destination for travelers and locals alike.
Georgetown is a city you can come back to again and again and never grow tired of.The Unesco World Heritage designation came just in time to save many heritage buildings from demolition. Though developmentis bringing about changes, its soul and authenticity still remains, just a scratch beneath the surface. The introduction of a heritage hotel like Campbell House means you can now visit Georgetown and stay in style and comfort.
Campbell House is a World Luxury Hotel Award winner and is ranked #1 on TripAdvisor for B&Bs in Georgetown. Rooms range from 600-800RMB per night.Air Asia flies from Hangzhou to Penang, transferring in Kuala Lumpur.
The Hyatt Regency welcomes Raul Avendano, a 31-year-old chef from Chile, to “spice up” their restaurant and buffet. This South American hottie creates a flavor so refreshing it will whip your taste buds into shape and wake you up from a world of slumber. This talented chef started his career in the hotel business studying administration, but after one year he decided it wasn’t for him. He changed majors to be in the kitchen and everything fell into place.
“When I put on my uniform and take my knife, I feel different. I get this intense feeling, just taking the raw ingredients and transforming them to something incredible.”
Raul has been cooking in top hotels all over the world. After four years traveling in Mexico, he moved on to Macau to open a new branch of the Banyan Tree. He was also the chef in the pre-openings of Dubai’s exclusive beachfront bar and restaurant Zero Gravity and the Grand Hyatt Casino Hotel in the Bahamas.
His Mexican Flautas are a good place to start if you are unfamiliar with Latin cuisine. Succulent chicken breast cooked in a tomato base and wrapped in a crispy flour tortilla, topped with sour cream and fresh salad. Next, we tried the Pork Loin Roulade with onions, garlic, dried cranberries, nuts and apple sauce, pan seared and finished to perfection in the oven. This was served with roasted potatoes and a chorizo-like sausage. If that wasn’t tantalizing enough, the final surprise was the Green Lamb Chops marinated with lemon and served on a bed of creamy quinoa risotto that really got our tongues tingling! We managed to have a chat and find out ‘more’ about the man himself for all you readers of MORE Hangzhou.
So Raul, you have quite the resume! Can you tell us which of your experiences have been the most rewarding so far?
A great place for me to work was Dubai. It was challenging at first because of the religion and restrictions. In Chile, we like to cook with red wine and experiment with new ingredients and spices, but there I could not use alcohol or pork. But, the supply of fresh meats, vegetables and spices was endless and we had good contacts with the suppliers. In the end, I really honed in on other techniques and flavors. It was a memorable time.
We all know how difficult it is to get certain ingredients here. Why did you choose China?
The fascination came from when I was a kid, you know. Growing up, I loved the Chinese movies with Jackie Chan, and I was amazed by the different culture and, of course, the food! Then I worked Macau and I learnt so much! I thought “I’m here! I’ve done it.” China is a place that people from the west think they know until they arrive here and it all opens up. It’s a whole new world. After I left Macau and went back to South America, I thought… “Something is missing in this kitchen… the woks!” Working on a line with these tools and producing a different taste was incredible, and I am happy to be back working with a talented group of individuals.
What’s the greatest difficulty you have here?
It has to be the language. I’m learning slowly but it will take time. I always say “I have no problems, just challenges,” and because I have no problems, I have more time to find solutions. I love working in this team. To these chefs, it isn’t just a job, it’s their passion and that’s what make this food very special.
Where did your motivation come from? Did your mum cook at home?
Oh no, my love for cooking comes from my Dad’s side of the family. My aunt and my Grandmother, they have good taste. My teachers too, they really inspired me to do more. I hope the people in Hangzhou can be open to try new flavours and enjoy eating my food as much as I enjoy creating it.
If you would like to join the taste fiesta, then head down to the Hyatt Regency hotel for their Latin Festival which lasts until April 10th. The buffet, which includes the dishes we tried, will run you 348RMB from Sunday to Thursday and from Friday to Saturday 368RMB (both prices have a 15% service charge).
Raul is in the process of creating a whole new a la carte menu that will be available after the festival with other dishes of Latin taste to tease you too! For more information on this, go ahead and contact the hotel or pop by for a sneaky peak at Raul himself hard at work in Café at the Hyatt. Buen Provecho!
To be honest, this is not exactly how I saw my Saturday morning going. After a good deal of persuasion, I had given in and decided to come to CrossFit Qiantang to see what all the fuss was about. Standing in a room full of about twenty-five athletic-looking sorts limbering up, little did I know that I was about to experience what would be one of the more intense twenty minutes worth of exercise I had done in my life.
In the car on the way to the gym, after having signed up for the class, we found out what the WOD (workout of the day) was. That day it would begin with 150 Burpees, a movement which involves going from standing to lying, to standing and a jump to finish. Then, 100 Wall Balls, requiring you to throw a medicine ball to above a line high on the wall. These two exercises were to be completed as a team, shared and in rotation. The final part, 5x200 meters, would be an individual effort.
After stretching and warming up, we were put into teams of three, our team name placed on the board, thereby riling up the competitive spirit in each and every athlete present. As the countdown began from ten, the crowd erupted, and as the music got louder, the tempo in the room sky-rocketed and the anticipation became unbearable.
Then, the room exploded as the battle for supremacy began, each team pitted off against each other in an effort to achieve the best time. During the next twenty minutes, I found strength in me that I didn’t know existed as my team and trainers (and even the opposition!?) spurred me on to reach the finish line in as fast a time as possible.
So this was my experience of CrossFit, a way of working out that has taken countless countries by storm and is now rapidly spreading through the mainland of China. For a better explanation of what CrossFit actually is, I spoke with the founder of CrossFit Qiantang, The General. Summing up my experience perfectly he told me, “It’s all about stepping out of your comfort zone. CrossFit is fun, but at the same time it can be brutal because it pushes you to your limits. The purpose of CrossFit is to train at your threshold area, which means you need to push your margin out.”
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit has three core fundamentals: constant variation, functional movement and high intensity. The first, constant variation, aims to improve your overall fitness, offering new and completely different workouts each time, using muscles you never knew you had, in contrast to a more focused improvement that some sports or traditional gym training offer: “We want every single one of our athletes to have a great general, broad fitness, which means they are prepared for the unknown,” said The General. In addition, you only find out the WOD after having booked the class, so if it’s something you don’t like, there’s no backing out: “You have no idea what you are going to be doing that day, just like real life. Life is unpredictable... CrossFit is the same thing.”
Functional movement involves using non-artificial movement – many gym machines promote a movement that is not entirely natural, whereas functional movements are more daily-life based and can therefore be used more in everyday situations.
High intensity is fairly self-explanatory, the benefit being you can put in less time but get more benefit. Rather than spending countless hours on a treadmill, CrossFit can condense this into around fifteen or twenty minutes of actual workout time (not including warming up or down), and yet offers results to match and even surpass longer, less intense workouts.
Why do CrossFit?
Aside from obvious health benefits, the most valuable thing CrossFit can offer is community. Looking lost on my first time in the gym, I was warmly received by trainers and members alike, as they approached me to introduce themselves and confess their great love for CF. Jenny had been CF-ing for around six months and was quick to praise the social aspect CF offers. She’d been working out in traditional gyms for years, rarely meeting anyone new: “I would be next to a guy on a treadmill every week for five or six years and have no idea about his name or who he was. Coming to CrossFit, there is a real feeling of community; everyone is very friendly and a strong bond is formed.”
This bond can only serve to improve your workout input as when you are making that final push, those around you shouting your name are sources of admiration and inspiration, team members who want nothing more than to see you do that extra rep, sprint that last 100 meters. They expect nothing less than 100%, and that is exactly what you should give them.
Furthermore, CrossFit supports and encourages its members to leave their comfort zone behind and do things they never thought they were capable of. The General explained, “The vast majority of people in this world only want to do the things they can do well… we like to give you something that you’re not good at… just use four or five hours a week to do this and your life will change completely.” So rather than doing something which comes easily to you, something you’re used to and can handle with relative ease, why not improve yourself by doing something you’re terrible at. Makes sense, right?
Some go to church, others go to CrossFit
For most, CF is more than just a workout. It’s way of life, a way of thinking that seems to make people want more from themselves. For one member, Adriana, CF was the missing piece of the puzzle, and after discovering it, her life came together, leading her to quit her job and become a shareholder in the company. Like many of the members here, you too may find yourself starting a new chapter of your life. Discover a new you, meet new friends. There’s really no excuse, so go on down and meet the CrossFit Qiantang family.
Give it a shot
For those of you thinking of joining, the first step is to sign up for one of their trial classes, either on Saturdays at 10am or Wednesdays at 8pm. The Saturday morning class will include members, so you’ll have a chance to meet the whole gang, something I strongly recommend, whereas the Wednesday evening class will include prospective members only. Also, many different membership schemes are available depending on your availability, ranging from a one-off drop in fee to a five-times-weekly membership.
Etienne Jeanne, guitarist with gypsy jazz band Three of a Kind, has been living in China for almost ten years. His Russian bandmates are based in Paris which means he mostly gets to play with them when he returns to France in the summer. This year however they are recording a new project in April and are hoping to embark on a world tour next year. I asked Etienne some questions about the band and the musical genre of gypsy jazz.
How did you meet your bandmates?
The three of us met in Paris in 2002. I had just moved to Paris when I was 18 in order to start my career as a professional musician, and met Aliocha and Vladi separately while doing gigs in Paris. It was the beginning of the "gypsy jazz revival" at the time. They were performing in an old Russian cabaret every week. I went to jam with them and found we had a strong connection right away so we decided to form a band. We've remained friends ever since.
How do you define gypsy jazz?
Gypsy jazz is a musical genre developed by the late great Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli in the late 30's, on the initiative of Hugues Panassié and Charles Delauney who wanted to build and promote a unique type of European jazz. That is why the Hot Club de France were the first "strings only" jazz quintet ever, innovating jazz music with a totally new sound never recorded before.
Is gypsy jazz the hardest genre to play on guitar?
It definitely requires strong guitar skills to play gypsy jazz, but not only that. A certain knowledge about jazz and gypsy culture in general, and an acuity for improvisation are also important.
Do you think there is a large audience for this type of music?
There is undoubtedly a large audience for gypsy jazz as this type of music is getting more and more popular. When I started to play this music, it was kind of a geek thing known principally in France and a few countries around (England, Germany, Holland, Italy), and now there is a Hot Club in every major city in the world, such as San Francisco, and even in Beijing! This style of music is pleasing to the ear, non-aggressive, and visually strong as you can see guitar players and violin players going crazy on their instruments! Plus it involves the guitar, which is the most popular instrument in the world, so people tend to identify themselves with it even more, especially metal guitar players.
What's the best thing about playing to a live audience?
Two things; the reward of an intense practice at home for years when people are clapping their hands, and the freedom to re-arrange our tunes, improvise, and make people surprised with a brand new show each time. To record is to leave a trace in time, to play live is to feel carefree again.
Where's your favourite place to play in Hangzhou?
I personally like to play in JZ Club because the venue is well adapted for live performances. There are many other places in Hangzhou offering the possibility to watch live bands, but not enough in my opinion. That is why I still need to work in Shanghai regularly since there are more opportunities. Fingers crossed about more musicians coming to Hangzhou in the next few years.
Has Chinese music had any influence on the music that you play?
Chinese music had an influence on the way I write originals indeed, we also cover a few songs from the early 30's Shanghai jazz repertoire.
Which bands are you following at the moment?
In the field of gypsy jazz, there are a lot of good musicians upcoming from all around the world although I think this type of music is precisely the legacy of Django Reinhardt, and hasn't really improved yet. People tend to copy the "authentic gypsy style" too much instead of working on their own interior music, which I think wouldn't have been the wish of the creators of this revolutionary musical genre.
If you would like to see Three of a Kind playing live, you can check them out at the venues below.
April 2nd @ ABC Café (Starts at 7:30pm)
1/F, Changjian Mansion, 415 Huanxing Rd, Binjiang, 滨江环兴路415号长建大厦1楼
April 8th @ Amigo (Starts at 9pm)
8 Yugu Rd, 玉古路8号
April 17th @ JZ Hangzhou (Starts at 9:30pm)
6 Liuying Rd (Nanshan Rd) , 柳营路6号（靠南山路）
April 22nd @ Reggae bar (Starts at 10:30pm)
131 Xueyuan Rd, 学院路131号
April 23rd @ Schänke (Starts at 9:30pm)
Room -3 and 2-2, Building 32, Qingchunfang, Qingchun Rd, 庆春路青春坊32幢1-3室和2-2室