Longjing Stir-Fried Shrimp is a famous Chinese dish from the city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. It combines the fragrance of Longjing tea leaves (one of China’s famous teas) with fresh shrimp from the West Lake into a delightful blend of aroma and taste. The name of the dish also has an esteemed origin. It was given by Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1711 – 1799 AD) while he toured the Jiangnan region.
Emperor Qianlong once went on a tour of the Jiangnan region (southeast China) around the Qingming Festival (early April). The spring rains were in full force as he passed by Hangzhou. Seeking shelter at a farmhouse, the emperor was treated to cups of freshly picked Longjing tea from the farm owner. Pleased with the quality of the tea, Qianlong thought that it would be wonderful if they could bring the tea back to the palace. However, it was inappropriate to reveal his position since he was on an undercover inspection. He was also reluctant to implore the owner. When the owner was attending other matters, the emperor grabbed a handful of tea leaves from the container and stuffed them in his emperor’s robes underneath the common clothing.
When the rain subsided, Emperor Qianlong thanked the farm owner for his hospitality and continued on his inspection. When he arrived at the West Lake, Qianlong and his entourage entered a small hotel to dine. They ordered a few local delicacies, including a plate of stir-fried West Lake shrimp.
While he waited for the food to be prepared, Qianlong suddenly remembered the Longjing tea leaves so he summoned a waiter to steep the tea. As he reached into his pocket for the leaves, the waiter noticed the emperor’s robes. Startled, the waiter frantically ran into the kitchen to tell the owner who was stir-frying the shrimp. Hearing that the emperor had arrived, the owner fell into a panic and finished the dish in a hurry. As the owner brought out the stir-fried shrimp, he noticed that he mistakenly used the waiter’s Longjing tea leaves instead of scallion in the dish.
Once the Longjing stir-fried shrimp was placed on the table, it gave off a distinct aroma. Emperor Qianlong quickly took a bite and immediately tasted the tender sweetness. When he looked at the dish, he was ecstatic to find the combination of shiny, translucent shrimp and emerald green Longjing tea leaves. With great joy, Qianlong proclaimed repeatedly, “Magnificent dish! What an amazing Longjing stir-fried shrimp!” Thereafter, this dish became one of the most famous dishes in Hangzhou.