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November 16, 2009

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Getting your goat

THERE'S nothing like goat meat and spicy goat blood soup - loaded with hot yang energy - to warm you up and power you throughout the winter. Tan Weiyun visits the "Village of Goat Meat."

More and more people are gobbling up goat meat (yangrou), especially in winter, and remote Zhangqiao Village in Jinshan District is the place to get your goat.

Known as the "Village of Goat Meat" (a registered trademark), Zhangqiao is building up its goat industry, increasing goat raising and butchering and opening more restaurants and stalls in a central goat cuisine plaza.

For the past two years, it has held goat festivals and it aims to transform itself from a charming bucolic retreat into a tourist attraction with entertainment facilities, tea houses, motels and goat souvenir shops.

Traditional Chinese medicine holds that goat meat is especially good in winter as it contains hot yang energy and warms your system.

Goat appears more and more in the city, but gourmands who want their goat meat super fresh, right off the hoof and steaming hot make the pilgrimage to Zhangqiao, at least an hour from downtown. Before roads were improved, only the real goat aficionados made the trek.

Venturing into the village is like walking into a big party along Jinshi Road S.

Every day around 5pm, the village in the countryside is filled with tables of farmers and goat meat lovers. They're sweating and devouring large chops, legs of goat and assorted dishes of sliced goat, roast goat, goat livers, kidneys and everything else.

Spicy goat's blood soup with strong yellow rice wine is popular, especially among guys who believe goat's blood is a sex tonic.

You can eat it grilled, braised, roasted, stir-fried with vegetables, made into stews and soups.

"The goat meat here is superb and the method of cooking is authentic," says 53-year-old Xue Jiankang, who drove all the way from Xuhui District to the outskirts to get his goat. "It has been my annual ritual to taste the goat meat here every winter."

Zhangqiao's goat meat is famously tender and fresh.

"We butcher the goat in our backyard, cook it and present it to our guests in the front yard right away - it's the freshest," says 47-year-old goat raiser Gao Meihua.

She opened her small family-style goat bistro more than two decades ago.

"I used to carry my son in my arms while I was cooking 20 years ago, but now he has become the chef in the kitchen," Gao says. Her 23-year-old son now has taken over the restaurant and her daughter-in-law is the bookkeeper.

The goat meat business is booming.

Every day, especially in autumn and winter, Gao butchers three to four goats.

"We're kept busy, especially in winter. People keep streaming in and we have no time to rest,"

But bigger local restaurants can butcher as many as 40 goats a day during peak season from October through December.

The village's history with goat meat goes back 40 years to the 1960s when a farmer Huang Zhiyun, who raised and butchered goats, started a shabby goat meat restaurant.

For a long time, his was the only place offering goat meat.

But more goat meat eateries opened nearby as Xinwei Road was widened and the Jinshi Road was built in 1966.

Today all kinds of restaurants are offering different goat fare.

Many villagers now raise one or two goats at home and sell them to restaurants.

"The nearby square was packed with cars of goat meat lovers, and some have to park in villagers' yards," Gao says.

The local government saw the goat meat business as a way to increase farmers' income. For years Zhangqiao Village was largely cut off from the outside world and relied heavily on farming.

In 2006 the government built a 4,500-square-meter plaza featuring goat meat cuisine from six large restaurants and dozens of small eateries and stalls.

Each year the plaza receives around 35,000 persons.

More than 6,500 goats are butchered, generating 2.2 million yuan (US$323,530) in income for local farmers.

More than 250 households raise goats in the village.

The price for a goat is increasing every year, from 500 yuan last year to 700 yuan today, says Jin Tianming, who raises 60 goats. "Some big goats sell for up to 800 yuan," he says.

The government supports the goat industry by granting annual subsidies ranging from 50 yuan to 500 yuan to each goat raiser.

In 2006 the government registered the trademark "Goat Meat Village" and last year the first goat meat festival was held.

In 2007 the government built parking lots near the goat meat road.

There's a blueprint for a 24-hectare project, covering not only goat meat restaurants but also entertainment facilities, bars, tea houses, fishing ponds, parks, motels and souvenir shops.

"The village is working hard to become Shanghai's base for goat raising, butchering, processing, catering and selling," says Zhou Yongchao, director of Jinshanwei Town, which includes the goat village.

Within the next three years, the government plans to invest 70 million yuan in renovating the village's roads, rivers and bridges, building Zhangqiao into a new tourism attraction and its goat meat into a brand recognized throughout the Yangtze River Delta.

"I hope the word Zhangqiao is the first thing that pops into people's minds when they want to eat goat meat," Zhou says.

How to get there: A4 (toward Jinshanwei) - A6. Take Jinshanwei exit to Jinshan Avenue, Jinshi Road S.

Dos and don'ts

Wing Tan

According to traditional Chinese medicine, goat has lots of yang (hot) energy and thus can reinforce energy and nourish weak constitutions.

According to the ancient "Ben Cao Gang Mu," a TCM bible, goat benefits the heart, spleen (the entire digestive system) and kidneys (especially the reproductive system), fights fatigue and weakness, gives strength and brings warmth.

However, there some TCM dos and don'ts when you eat goat.

Don't drink vinegar with goat meat. The meat and vinegar are both yang (hot) energy foods and overdoing it can cause "fire" in the body and damage the heart.

Those with cardiovascular conditions should be wary of goat.

Don't cook goat meat in copper vessels. There could be a chemical reaction and at high temperatures the metal could generate copper salt which could react with goat protein, creating a toxic substance, or so it is said.

People with liver conditions should not eat too much goat as it can burden the liver.

Don't drink tea after eating goat meat as it may cause constipation.

Don't eat too much goat meat. Balance it with cooler yin energy foods, such as cabbage and bean starch noodles.


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