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Taiwan gourmet explores new taste in Zhejiang village

By Qin Qi
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, July 15, 2021
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Pingtian village of eastern China's Zhejiang province was named a national model village of rural tourism thanks to its comprehensive facilities and sound cultural development. It has attracted photographers, painters, and musicians to start up businesses here. One of them was Wang Lingfang, the founder of fusion restaurant Yitangju.

Photo taken on June 1, 2021 shows a view of Pingtian village, Zhejiang province. [Photo courtesy of Lingfang's Wonderland]

In the past few years, Wang visited many villages to explore culinary tourism in rural China. She was deeply attracted by the beautiful landscape and abundant cultural resources of Pingtian, which has many well-preserved ancient houses due to local government efforts. In a bid to better demonstrate its culture, Wang decided to renovate a 70-year-old house and turn it into her new restaurant. She kept its original architecture, renovated the balcony, and transformed it into a quaint attic with modern elements. Through the windows on the upper floor, customers can have a panoramic view of the village.

Photo taken on June 1, 2021 shows the inside look of Yitangju, Pingtian Village, Zhejiang province. [Photo courtesy of Lingfang's Wonderland]

Wang also wanted to stay in Pingtian because of the support from the local government for business like hers. In 2018, Songyang county rolled out a cultural revival policy to encourage people from different artistic fields to come to its villages, attracting nearly 100. Today, Songyang is home to 42 art studios. The vibrant cultural environment has enabled Wang to play up to her culinary talents. 

As a veteran gastronome, Wang has an instinct for good food. Pingtian's plentiful food resources sparked Wang's imagination to combine Western cooking method with local food materials. Songyang brown sugar is a popular local specialty with a long history. Wang decided to employ it as the main ingredient for her cuisine. She created a series of brown sugar-themed dishes including bread, toast, and puff. Besides the food, she plans to develop a new type of coffee, mixing the brown sugar and coffee beans before roasting.  

The restaurant combines Chinese and Western elements and has attracted countless tourists. According to restaurant review platform Dianping, Yitangju has ranked No.1 on both Songyang Food List and Lishui Food List within three weeks after its opening in May 2020.

Wang Lingfang (3rd R) takes pictures with her local students in Pingtian village, Zhejiang province, March 26, 2019. [Photo courtesy of Lingfang's Wonderland]

Besides the food, the service provided by the restaurant is another factor attracting more and more people. The staff of Yitangju have received comprehensive training in cooking, photography, and table etiquettes. Wang believes that interactions between people are important for improving tourists' travelling experience. In a bid to provide better services for the tourists, Wang runs four training sessions a year, teaching and developing new seasonal foods with the staff. 

Bao Jinhong, a 62-year-old local woman, is an outstanding dessert chef at Yitangju. Bao arrived at the restaurant with no knowledge of fusion cuisine in 2019. After two years of hard work with Wang, Bao created six favors of British biscuits, all drawn purely from local materials such as green tea, yams, tangerines, and brown sugar. In order to fully demonstrate Bao's skills, Wang opened a bakery for Bao named "Aunt Bao's bakery" next to her restaurant. 

Bao Jinhong (M) provides freshly baked bread for the customers at Yitangju, Pingtian village, Zhejiang province. [Photo courtesy of Lingfang's Wonderland]

Apart from basic services, the staff working at Yitangju are good at photography as well, helping the customers to capture memorable moments. Therefore, it's common to see the tourists coming to Yitangju dressed up and ready for the camera. 

The appearance of Yitangju has provided a learning opportunity for people of the village interested in the catering industry. Nearly 100 residents have received training from the restaurant. The skills they learned have helped them to pursue their careers. 

"There is huge potential in local people and in the villages, as they can make achievements at the door of their houses," Wang said. The booming business and pleasant changes of the local residents have boosted Wang's confidence in her career in rural areas of China. 

"The villages are endowed with so many beauties, I will continue my adventure in the Chinese countryside," she said. 

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