Tongli has a gentle, slightly humid climate, with lots of river branches (note that the canals here are streams, i.e., they are part of the river) that contain various edible fishes and aquatic plants. Tingli's food culture is characteristic of the cuisine south of the Yangtze River. The most famous dishes are: "Pork Shanks Serving the Number One Scholar"; Shelled, Freshwater Shrimp in Cakes; Three-Slice Spring Rolls; Braised, Minced Eel; and the classical, watertown bouillabaisse-like dish made of a combination of whitefish, weaverfish, mandarin fish and turtle.
Tongli is known for other specialties such as cane shoots, celeries, water shields (aka dollar bonnet, Brasenia schreberi, an aquatic plant), water chestnuts, lotus roots and other aquatic plants – all of which vegetables are regional specialties – as well as a variety of dishes such as: Pastries Under the Socks; honey cakes; round flat cakes; lard rice cakes; steamed breads; sweet, fermented rice; malt cakes; small, smoked fishes; and the like. To find these and many other local dishes in Tongli, try the following venues: Yilongjiang Garden, Rice Flavor Village, and Southern Garden Teahouse.
Here are a few easy recipies if you would like to try to make these tasty dishes at home:
Shelled Fresh Shrimp in Cakes – Beat some egg whites, add rice flour and mix to a batter, add shrimps and mix gently, then spoon dollops of shrimp-batter mix into a deep fat fryer (or place dollops in a skillet with a generous amount of oil, eg. peanut oil). Cook for a few minutes until the "cakes" float/ are browned. Serve with sliced tomatoes dressed with your favorite spices and/or sauce. Yummy!
Three-Slice Spring Rolls – Saltwater herring and freshwater grass carp are combined to make this tasty dish. Purchase cleaned fish with skin, but with the skins removed (or purchase fish filets and rice wrappers (for making spring rolls) separately). Slice off the flesh of the fish and dice. Lay out fish skins/ rice wrappers, place a slice of ham on the skin/ wrapper, then diced fish, shredded chicken, and thinly sliced, sautéed mushrooms. Add a bit of wine and any other favorite relevant condiment, then roll into logs (the fish skin should cling to itself like plastic wrap), folding in the ends as you roll, and place in a double boiler or other type of steamer. Serve with your favorite spring roll dipping sauce. Yummy!
Braised Minced Eels – Coat minced eels in flour, then brown quickly on all sides at high heat in shortening or oil (peanut oil tolerates high heat). Lower heat (lowest level) and add diced or shredded ham, shredded chicken, crushed garlic, shredded ginger and salt & pepper. Let fry for a minute or two while stirring gently. Add shrimps and a small amount of liquid (water or wine). Cover and let simmer for a few minutes, adding more liquid as needed. Bon appetit!
In addition to its charming water scenes, Tongli is home to Tuisi Garden, aka the Retreat and Reflection Garden (Retreat Garden, for short). » more
Tongli has a gentle, slightly humid climate, with lots of river branches that contain various edible fishes and aquatic plants. » more
There are direct buses from Shanghai and Suzhou to Tongli. At Zhouzhuang, there are small buses going to Tongli which involve a journey of about ½ hour. » more
Chuanxin Alley, archaic yet elegant, is worthy of special mention, its bluestone pathways providing a hint of the city's ancient cultural flavor. » more
Although Tongli is small, its streets are relatively wide, with dwellings and business establishments alternating with noteworthy cultural and historical sites. » more
You can rent a gondola (long boat) w/boatman for a quiet tour on the river– the price is 60 Yuan for a standard, 30 minute ride. » more