Some of the tastiest delicacies around China have originated in Suzhou.The cuisine typically slightly sweet, and they celebrate the use of fresh, seasonal vegetables.Most dishes will have either fish or vegetables as their main ingredient.There are tons of restaurants in which to sample the local treats, as well as street food vendors.Suzhou also has a few western restaurants for a taste of home.
Weve named our top local dishes, and where to get them.
The Squirrel-Shaped Mandarin Fish
Lingering Graden In Suzhou
Through delicate cutting of the fishs flesh, its made into the shape of a squirrel.The bright red colour will entice you into a dish that tastes both sweet and sour.Anywhere south of the Yangtze river, this is the prize fish to be served at feasts and restaurants.Its rumoured that since it was the favourite of an emperor, its popularity spread across China.
This spacious restaurant is tucked away on a street in Lions Grove, its set in a traditional courtyard.A big hit for visitors and the locals, so make a booking!Its inside a Qing dynasty mansion, and was once the home of famous Suzhounese architecht, IM Pei.
Their fish is delicious, but also try out the Kung Pao Chicken.Dishes from 30 RMB.
31 Panru Xiang
Biluo comes from the Biluo Chun tea thats grown on Xishan Moauntain on the shores of Tai Lake.The shrimp are cooked in the juices of the delicate Biluo tea.The result is a light, flavourful dish that is truly unforgettable in colour as well as taste.There are a number of shrimp dishes unique to Suzhou, but we liked this one best!Remember Suzhous emphasis on eating in-season food, so eat this in spring!The shrimp are locally caught from Taihu Lake.
This restaurant is over 2000 years old!Long known for its fine preparation of local dishes, their emphasis is on freshness and seasonal ingredients.Their most popular dishes are the shrimp and freshwater dishes, as well as fried snails and the braised eel.An Qing dynasty emperor called Qianlong visited this restaurant every time he came to Suzhou.Youll pay over 100 RMB per person.
72, Taijian Lane, Pingjiang District
Yes, its an interesting one.Watermelon is a very popular summer fruit, and the juices inside the watermelon also serve to reduce the internal heat of the chicken.The chicken is left incredibly soft and tender, and something akin to s soup is left behind to sip on.
This is a country wide chain that specializes in preparing the very best local food.Its incredibly popular with locals and foreign visitors, so its always best to book a table because the waiting line can be very long (3hours!).It is stunningly decorated, with fine potter pieces, live freshly cut flowers, and traditional Chinese drapes.Many of their dishes are infused with green tea.Pay around 100 per person.
West Zhongxin Dadao No 229, Wanke Meihao Department Store
Eat on the street
Suzhou has a bustling street food scene, and a late-night pig out is a must if you visit the city.Whether youre grabbing a steamed bun for breakfast or a late-night barbeque the street is one of the best places to grab a snack.Suzhou is well known for their pastries and cakes.The pastries have a glutinous rice base, and are filled with any kind of sweet or savoury filling.Try out Huang Tian Yuan, where you have a HUGE choice of whatever filling youd like, from red beans to peanuts.
Taijian Long is probably the most famous of food streets in Suzhou.Its 200 meters long, and has an interesting history because its known to be a place where eunuchs from Ming dynasty congregated.Youll find tons of fancy restaurants like Song He Lou, but the small vendors on the street is where youll pick tasty crab- filled steamed buns (5RMB), meat on a stick at barbeque stalls and tasty rice balls.
Guanqian is also nearby, and it makes for a great evening stroll down the pedestrian street in search of a top-class snack.Go to Huang Tian Yuan which is renowned for its tasty pastries and sesame-seed cakes.Stop off at Cai Zhi Zhai if you have a sweet tooth- they have candy and dried fruits on offer.
Western and other Asian food
Suzhou has a relatively large foreign community, so a number of western and international eateries have popped up in recent years.The western restaurants here are top class, with renowned chefs preparing tasty food thats to die for.
Namaste Indian Restaurant
Its well-known amongst the foodies in Suzhou.The atmosphere is warm and cosy, and the large menu has everything youd expect from an Indian restaurant.Youll get curries of every kind, samosas and of course naan bread.Ajay is the owner, and hes really friendly- hell ask you how spicy you like your dishes.There are two Indian sous chefs in the kitchen, and the head has over 20 years experience.
912 Bar Street A-7, Ligongdi
A classical French restaurant, the décor and French owners make you feel as if youre enjoying a meal in the heart of Paris.Superb food, and great wines the menu is all French: foie gras, snails, cheese and oysters!
Youll also get the classical western meals: beef fillet, salmon and lamb chops.Expect to pay.
711 Shiquan Jie, Canglang
If youre in the mood for Italian, this is your place.Small, cosy with an outdoor patio.Its also a nice place to take the kids- theres a playground.They have sweet deals over the weekend for brunches.
East Building, Linglongwan Compound (Bayside Garden), 1 Linglong Street,
Cafes and coffee houses
There are a number of Starbucks and Costas throughout the city.And their staff will usually speak enough English for you to order your cuppa.However, if youre looking for a specialist coffee store where you can also pick up a slice of cake or a pastry, try out Danish Baking Shifu.Its centrally located next to Suzhou Museum, and who better to cook a pastry than a born and bred Dane?
We also loved Solo Café.Small, cosy and they make great coffee.Dont forget to try out their tasty home made ice cream!The café attracts foreigners as well as Chinese who study at the nearby university.People come here to work and relax, and the atmosphere is awesome!
There are lots to choose from, but if you like foreign beer choose a western one.Theyll also put sport on TV, so you can catch the game.
We loved Johnsons Bar and Restaurant.They get lots of regular customers and owner Johnson is always there to have a chat.Live sport on TV, great beer and they also have pool tables with weekly competitions.The menu has Asian, western and Chinese food.Every day the happy hour is from 2pm-8pm.
If you lobe Belgian beer, try out Ollies.They have a long list of the best Belgian beer (Duvel, Chimmay).On Mondays happy hour lasts all day long, and theres a cool burger and beer special on Tuesdays.