We awoke the next day to a tasty brunch buffet at the Hyatt. Rice porridge is the most basic staple of any Chinese breakfast. Steamed buns and some dim sum. Pickled vegetables. Fried udon and bread pudding, not so much. But I wanted to try everything and fill up before we were out all day, possibly without breaks for food!
My mom took me to Lingyin Temple, 靈隐寺, which is literally translated as “Temple of the Soul’s Retreat”. It wasn’t hard to see why it’s one of the largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples in China. Our ticket was USD$16 each! Pretty ridiculous. There were also solicitors everywhere, trying to get you to go to their gift shops and to spend more money. Lingyin Temple wasn’t much like traditional Buddhist temples, which emphasize being low-key. This temple was incredibly commercialized.
But we were here to see the Feilai Feng ‘飞来峰’, a most famous grotto of religious rock carvings. Feilai Feng gets its name from a legend that holds that the peak was originally from India but flew to Hangzhou within a single night, to demonstrate the omnipotence of Buddhist law. Comical Engrish translation on the left. While sometimes the Shinto and Buddhist temples in Japan could get a little busy, Lingyin temple was a sea of people. Everyone rammed into each other, scrambling to get a good view of the Buddha statues and competing to get the remaining sticks of incense. Smoke carpeted the atmosphere. Nevertheless, it was an experience.
We visited the 大雄宝殿 [da xiong bao dian], or Grand Hall of the Great Sage. The building houses Shakyamuni, or better-known as Siddhartha (the Buddha). Shakyamuni is the largest wooden Buddhist statue in China. Over a hundred Buddhist personalities are depicted on the walls of the hall, along with inscriptions of Journey to the West (西遊記 xi you ji), one of the greatest pieces of Chinese literature.
After about two hours of suffocatingly smoky air and body heat, my mom and I broke away from the crowds of Lingyin to go to Santan Yin Yue 三潭印月, or “Three Pools Mirroring the Moon”. Santan Yin Yue is a small island in the middle of Xi Hu that encloses three small pagodas arranged in a triangle in the water. Each pagoda has holes carved into it, where lamps or candles can be placed. These beams of lights reflect on the water through the holes.
But to be honest, I think I was more into the peacocks on the island than the architecture. When we passed a booth selling lotus root powder, which is made from 蓮藕 [lian ou], or lotus root, my mom insisted on getting a bowl since you supposedly can’t get high-quality lotus root powder outside of XiHu. Ou-feng is essentially like corn starch, except that it’s drunk as a dessert soup using just the powder, hot water, sugar, and 桂圓 [gui yuan], or longan flowers. Pretty delicious, and supposedly quite healthy for you according to Chinese medicine!
Then it was time for dinner! 外婆家 [Wai Po Jia], or Grandma’s House, is a relatively well-known restaurant in Hangzhou. Even though we went for an early dinner, around 5:30pm, there was already a line outside the restaruant. Luckily the restaurant has about 3 floors, so it was a short wait before we were escorted to our table. Wai Po Jia is loved for the range of local foods it provides: foods that are had to find anywhere else.
One of these dishes was 冬虫夏草 [dong chong xia cao], more formally known as Cordyceps Sinesis. Real cordyceps sinesis is an incredibly rare and precious herb; a fungus that parasitizes larvae of ghost moths and produces a fruiting body. The vegetable dish is named after this herb because the vegetable looks like a winter worm, or 冬虫.
We also ordered the very traditional Shangainese dish, 烤麩 [kao fu], braised wheat gluten. It’s a cold dish that comes with braised bamboo shoots, black woodear, and sometimes shiitake mushrooms. On top of that, we had pumpkin chips, 煎饼 [jian bing] or fried Chinese crepes, and some mustard green rice soup. Rice soup differs from congee in that it isn’t boiled until it becomes mushy viscous; it’s cooked only until the grains are, and then taken and boiled (shortly) with soup and vegetables before serving. Our last dish was the stinky tofu stewed in a sour and hot pickle broth.
Definitely recommend Grandma’s House if you’re in XiHu. The food is well-priced, comes in large portions, and tastes just like homemade food. 🙂
The address for the branch in XiHu is:
6-1 Ma Cheng Lu, Xihu District