Hangzhou: The Grandma’s 外婆家

6 Jul

The Grandma’s 外婆家 (formerly known as Grandma’s Kitchen) is an affordable local Hangzhou chain selling Hangbang Cai 杭帮菜 that is immensely popular with both locals and tourists alike. When I say that it’s popular, I mean that even with over 20 locations around Hangzhou, it’s still perpetually crowded and during peak hours you have to wait for more than an hour! Over my two trips and 4 days in Hangzhou, I’ve eaten it thrice so I think that attest to how yums it is :) Am updating this entry of recommended dishes to include new dishes that I’ve tried!

The picture menu (note the rather silly iPad-ish design) at Grandma’s is as thick as a phonebook but I mostly followed the recommendations on More Hangzhou.

To start you should order a few xiao cai 小菜 to whet your appetite. This cold dish of longevity vegetable 长寿菜 really stood out because of its spicy, garlicky and vinegary dressing. The type of vegetable used has a velvety mouthfeel and is something new to me. It must be local to Hangzhou as I also don’t see it in my part of China.

The century egg 皮蛋, was also something different from the usual pairings of century egg with ginger or tofu as it was served with chilli and a soya sauce dressing. Who knew that century egg and chilli could actually go together?

Another popular appetiser which I spotted on many diners’ tables was the roasted chicken wing 烤鸡翅旁 marinated in Xinjiang spices (cumin) that was extremely tasty and moist.

The Long Jing tea scented chicken 龙井茶香鸡 wowed me as I was not aware that the humble chicken could ever taste this good and sophisticated. Served in a claypot, the meat was perfectly perfumed with the spices, extremely moist and fall-of-your-fork tender. According to CNNGo, the tea-soaked chicken was first wrapped in parchment paper and then roasted to give it its texture. There was a layer of flavourful oil at the bottom of the claypot and I had to stop myself from using the meat to soak it up. I could definitely eat one of this on my own and this is a must eat in Grandma’s Kitchen.

If you have heard of the Chinese poet Su Dongpo 苏东坡, you might find the local dish of braised Dongpo pork 东坡肉 familiar. The dish is purportedly named after him. It is made by pan-frying and then red cooking pork belly, which is about 50% fat and 50% lean meat. It’s a saltier version of the popular Hongshao pork in Shanghai and it’s braised with salted fish and bamboo shoots.

As expected, the fatty layer was so unctuous and melt in your mouth. But yet it wasn’t greasy and had an intoxicating sweet, salty and wine taste. So delicious but you should probably eat this in moderation :)

We wanted to order the prawns roasted in coral stones 珊瑚虾 the first time but as it was winter, it wasn’t in season. Thankfully on my second trip back it was available! This was absolutely delicious because of the seasoning used, and it had a slightly smokey flavour. You could just eat the whole crispy prawn without de-shelling which makes prawn eating even better :)

I don’t know how they cook this dish using the coral stones, but if you’re wondering it actually looks like this! They were at the bottom of the heap of prawns.

I’ve also tried the Long Jing river prawns 龙井虾仁, which were just lightly fried with a very faint tea taste. Unlike the prawns we are used to in Singapore, these are very small but crunchy with a tint of sweetness, and we couldn’t stop popping them into our mouths.

Almost every other table had ordered the steamed fish head with chilli 外婆鱼头, so we knew it was a must order. Don’t be alarmed when it’s served to table as it’s a really really huge dish, these must be the biggest fish heads I’ve ever seen! The fish was super fresh and perfectly cooked, and the moreish sauce is just excellent. For a fish lover/fish head lover like myself, this dish is a must order. My friend found the sauce (salty and spicy) a little strong tasting after a while but when you eat it with the noodles I think it’s just nice. It’s also much less spicy than the Hubei/Hunan version we have here.

Onto the soups, the boiled fish with pickled cabbage and chili 酸菜鱼 was a big hit. It was a huge pot of tender fish slices in a very moreish salty and sour soup, and went very well with rice. Though the fish had a slightly muddy taste as like all river fish, the bold flavours of the soup managed to mask it well.

One of its signature soups, the Song Dynasty fish soup 宋嫂鱼羹 was a very fishy affair that my husband did not appreciate at all, and we gave up after a few mouthfuls. In essence, it tasted like starchy seawater with seafood bits. However, a lot of people do order this probably because it’s a traditional dish alongside with West Lake vinegar fish 西湖醋鱼. Definitely an acquired taste but I’m glad we gave it a try.

Another highly rated soup, the dough fritters with soya bean soup 豆浆油条汤 was a salty cousin of what we’re used to in Singapore. The soya bean was much lighter than the usual soya bean milk so it wasn’t too rich. Highly interesting having this in a soup format for once.

The Grandma’s is definitely a must visit when you’re in Hangzhou, for its sheer quality and value. Even if you’re a small group and order like a King (seriously, like 10 dishes for 3 pax), your bill shouldn’t be more than 80Y per person. The menu is also so humongous that you can try something different everyday though some dishes like the Long Jing tea scented chicken are obvious must orders.

Price: $ (50RMB to 70RMB per person)
Locations: 3 Hubin Rd 湖滨路3号2楼. Many other locations including original branch at 6-1 Macheng Lu 马腾路6-1号(浙江省高级法院对面).
Opening Hours: From 10am. Differs from store to store, call to check.
Tel: +86 571 85101939 (No reservations, go there and take a queue number, they will message you when your table is ready)
Website: http://www.waipojia.com

One Response to “Hangzhou: The Grandma’s 外婆家”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Hangzhou: Green Tea Restaurant 录茶餐厅 « Chow & The City - March 6, 2012

    […] delectable IMO, and the skin was nice; but I felt that the meat was a little tough and dry. Give me Grandma’s Kitchen’s tea scented chicken anytime. Maybe we should have gotten the BBQ pork or char siew […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: