NINGBO, China - In China, soft-shelled turtles are commonly called jiayu, and bing tang jiayu is a specialty dish in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, made by stewing the turtles with large crystals of sugar. Ningbo Zhuangyuandou Jiudian is a great restaurant that follows in the tradition of Zhuangyuandou, the restaurant that introduced the dish.
The dish is prepared by simmering diced turtle meat and the sugar with soy sauce, ginger and Chinese rice wine.
"It tastes sweet, sour and salty all together," said Tang Qiong, 35, a member of the restaurant staff.
The broth is mixed with soft turtle meat, bringing out the flavors in the dish.
The origin of the restaurant's name is also interesting, as it is believed to be named from an anecdote that during the Qing dynasty, people on their way to Beijing to take the bureaucracy exams who dropped by the restaurant achieved the highest score, which is called "zhuangyuan." I wonder if their achievement resulted from the turtles' nutritional effect. Though the dish is a little pricey at 788 yuan (S$171.50), perhaps the chance to boost one's fortunes is worth it.
Suzuki is a correspondent in Shanghai.