Zhen Ling Xian

Less than a year ago, Zhen Ling Xian, a Guangdong steamed food brand, opened a restaurant in the thousand-household Miao Village in China’s southwestern Guizhou province. This was part of a government-led campaign to boost the economy of the scenic yet remote village. 


Fang Xiaoman was the No.1 employee of the restaurant. Initially, Fang, a Guangdong native, struggled to adapt to the local preference for spicy and heavily flavored food, which contrasted with the sweeter taste of Guangdong cuisine.


Fang’s role involved team building, training, and management. Her colleagues were primarily villagers from nearby areas, lacking prior experience in the food industry. This made it challenging for them to grasp and accept the training in the beginning. However, their genuine and eager attitude towards learning helped them make significant progress over time.


After months of working at the restaurant, Fang’s impression of the place has altered completely. Miao Village offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, immersed in the beauty of nature. From the restaurant’s viewing deck, the village is lit up at night and locals welcome visitors warmly.


“Guizhou has beautiful mountains, rivers, and scenery, as well as lovely girls who love to sing. I hope that in the future, people here can grow vegetables and tea leaves right at their doorstep, raise small yellow cattle and black-haired pigs to make a living, without having to migrate to cities for work and leaving their loved ones behind,” Fang said.


One memorable customer for Fang Xiaoman was a traveler who discovered the restaurant by chance and was impressed by its authentic and ecologically sourced dishes. They visited the restaurant for three consecutive days, enjoying the varied menu options. From the flavorful “Sangna Chicken” to the tangy “Sour Soup Fish,” the customer never tired of the rich and diverse culinary offerings.


Liu Anli, who works part-time at the restaurant, said the place had rekindled her happiness and helped relieve the pressure of her other day job as a Party secretary in a nearby village.


“I was disheartened by the situation in my home village, where people lacked job opportunities. Thanks to the rural revitalization project, there has been a significant increase in the number of people lifted out of poverty,” Liu said.


“In our village alone, six individuals, chosen based on their skills and education, now work at the restaurant, taking up roles in the kitchen or serving the table. Moreover, in each village across the area, over 600 households are involved in this project, either through farming or animal husbandry to provide food supplies for the restaurant.”


Liu finds joy in welcoming guests at the restaurant entrance. Despite the chilly winter climate in Guizhou, she warmly greets and ushers every customer inside, showcasing the Miao ethnic group’s highest form of etiquette.


The restaurant brand is part of Youshi Fang, a dining group that specializes in steamed food and is committed to freshness and quality. Youshi Fang was founded by Lai Dongsheng, who holds a doctorate in medicine from Sichuan Medical University. Lai’s experience in the medical field made him passionate about healthy eating, which is reflected in the restaurant’s emphasis on fresh, authentic ingredients and their nutritional value.


It took Lai six months to open his first steamed food restaurant. During that period, he focused on finding specialized steaming equipment, creating dishes that preserved the original flavors, and recruiting chefs with suitable cooking habits. These challenges have now become the brand’s unique advantages.


Liao is proud of the design of the Guizhou restaurant, which seamlessly integrates the village’s picturesque charm, highlighting local architecture and ethnic attire. The restaurant serves popular dishes such as “Sangna Chicken,” “Sangna Fish,” and “Steamed Pot Sour Soup Fish.” These dishes combine ecological farming, Guangdong-style culinary expertise, and Guizhou flavors.


Lai plans to expand this successful model to other tourist attractions as well, with the aim of opening 30 additional steamed food restaurants in Shenzhen and 100 more in Guizhou.


China’s remote inland villages face the challenges of poor infrastructure, limited transport, and the difficulty of selling agricultural products. The Guizhou restaurant has solved these issues by directly ordering from and sharing profits with farmers. It also serves as a platform for marketing and experiencing local specialties. For just 10 yuan, customers can enjoy tea, scenic views, relaxation, and conversations in a dedicated area in the store, which helps boost sales of locally sourced agricultural products.


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