Sanya, a veritable paradise of seafood
A scene in a seafood market in Sanya
At the southern tip of China’s Hainan Island, amid the white sand beaches and blush sunsets, a gourmand’s paradise of local cusine and carefully crafted cocktails awaits.
The Chinese are known for many things: ancient tea ceremonies, elegant silk garments, exotic foods, excellent shopping and state-of-the-art technology. China is fast becoming a favorite for new wine production, but look beyond the burgeoning economy and mass produced products and you’ll discover a little piece of paradise where gourmet cuisine and carefully crafted cocktails are just as much of a draw as the white beaches and pink sunsets.
Located just an hour by plane from Hong Kong and three hours from Beijing, Sanya is an exclusive getaway where the mountains, sea and city converge. The southernmost city in China, with a population of around 600,000 people, Sanya is the second largest city on the island. It has hosted the Miss World contest and the World’s Strongest Man contest, but more recently Sanya has emerged as a popular tourist destination and an easy beach getaway, thanks to its tropical climate and warm year-round weather.
But to those in the know, Sanya is more than just the "Hawaii of the East." Sanya is a feast of culinary delights originally derived from the history and beliefs of ancient Chinese culture, and brought back to life by some of the world’s top chefs. Tasting the local delicacies is a must when you’re here, but part of the fun is cooking with the culinary masters.
Endless varieties of seafood and fresh fruits grace the gardens and kitchens at The Ritz-Carlton, which Executive Chef Chris Southwick and a hotel groundskeeper—known simply as "Uncle Marty"—work to create daily dishes. After a walk through the resort’s fresh herb and fruit garden, where Uncle Marty has tended since the hotel’s opening in 2008, Southwick and his team of chefs head to the local food market in town.
Located about 30 minutes via cab from the hotel, the market yields just about everything one could want for a feast. De-feathered black chickens (which the Chinese believe are good for fertility) lay next to their white chicken counterparts (which are said to be good for virility), fish swim in tanks, crabs have been divided up by body or claw, fruits and vegetables are lined up neatly in rows, and unidentifiable seafood (much of which is still alive) sits on table tops ready to be purchased for the day’s dinner. In the back of the market, visitors can purchase prepared noodles, sauces and spices, each adding unique flavors to a freshly created dish.
Southwick created a menu for this day’s jaunt that included crab, sea bass, duck, chicken, rice noodles, vegetables and fruit cooked whole, dim sum in soup and Peking style. When it comes to cooking, nothing is off limits. Southwick, who spent time at the company’s Moscow and Florida properties, brings a bit of American flair to Asian cuisine. Fried rice flirts with guacamole; Thai beef salad entertains a lime dressing; and sea bass finds its way into a sticky sweet-and-sour sauce that leaves you wondering what your local Chinese restaurant is doing wrong.
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