Eat Slowly!

Mads Nissen

West Lake Restaurant near Changsha in China's Hunan province takes the idea of a Chinese restaurant to the next level. This is the biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World.~~200 snakes, 1,000 ducks, 700 chicken and a tonne of pork. This is the weekly meat order for the West Lake Restaurant in Changsha in China's central Hunan province, the world's biggest Chinese restaurant seating 5,000 over a vast 88,000 square metre floor modelled on Beijing's Forbidden City. It is the brainchild of Qin Lingzhi, an enterprising former hospital employee and member of the Chinese Communist Party who borrowed USD 10,000 from a group of friends to open her first restaurant in 2000. Within a year she had taken USD 600,000 and is now one of the over 1 million millionaires in China reaping the rewards of the country's seemingly unstoppable economic growth which in all but name has left its Communist ideology firmly behind.

West Lake Restaurant caters to the increasingly expensive and often demanding tastes of China's growing middle class. Over 1,000 employees - from waiters and chefs to bellboys, dancers, cleaners and hostesses - ensure that every wish and whim of families who can spend up to USD 1 million for a wedding celebration are taken care of. For those who value a bit of privacy, there are private dining rooms decked out in the 'imperial style' where waitresses, dressed in 'imperial costume' serve dishes that are cooked according to very specific recipes that have been codified and preserved over hundreds of years. For the rest, there are the vast halls of tables filled with thick cigarette smoke whose floors are littered with gnawed off bones.~~The menu, consisting mainly of dishes from Hunan and southern Guangdong provinces known for their spiciness, include such delicacies as monkey, snake, lizard, bird's nest and various type of insects. One of West Lake Restaurant's signature dishes is the so called 'Fried Alive Fish' which sees a chef gutting a live fish, throwing it into boiling oil and serving it up straight from the wok, the fish still gasping. ~~Mads Nissen went to taste the food and meet the people wishing each other a bon appetite - or Eat Slowly! as the Mandarin goes.~ ~A full text is available on request.

 

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      Staff lined up for a photograph in the front square...

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      The main dinning hall at The West Lake Restaurant....

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      During a wedding reception, held at the West Lake...

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      Plates of watermelon waiting to be served for desert...

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      Guests at a wedding reception make toasts with...

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      A dish The West Lake Restaurant is famous for: 'Fried...

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      A member of the kitchen staff places a cold desert...

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      A snack of boiled peanuts served at The West Lake...

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      Guests sit around a table in the 'Tai He Dian' room...

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      Chopped chillis, some of the 1,000 kgs used each...

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      Flames burst from a wok as Chef Yang Changjun...

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      Diners, at The West Lake Restaurant, sit around a...

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      A Cai Hua snake is diced in the kitchens of The West...

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      Decorative goldfish swim in a tank at The West Lake...

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      A member of kitchen staff washes dishes at The west...

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      At The West Lake Restaurant two children, visiting...

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      Freshwater prawns in a tank at The West Lake...

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      Diners, at The West Lake Restaurant, help themselves...

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      Cleaned Cai Hua snakes in the kitchens of The West...

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      Chickens being prepared in the kitchens of The West...

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      A Cai Hua snake is decapitated in the kitchens of The...

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      The decapitated head of a Cai Hua snake lies on a...

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      At a wedding party Zeng Zhongzhong (bridegroom) and...

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      Zeng Zhongzhong (left) and Jiang Xiaoxiao stand at...

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      Liu Huan, the bride, stands at the entrance to the...

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      Dancer and singer Yang Xing dresses in a traditional...

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      After finishing work Zeng Jianhua (L) sews and Zhu...

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      A bare-chested salesman holding a statue of Chairman...

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      After finishing work Luo Yang washes in her dormitory...

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      After finishing work Luo Yang sleeps in her dormitory...

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