Fenghuang — Phoenix Town — is a town in the west of Hunan Province, 6 hours by bus from the provincial capital of Changsha. It is built on the banks of a river, and the old town is very largely preserved or has been restored keeping its original style. Fenghuang has a number of sweet specialities, the most common of which can be seen being made in small shops all over the old town: ginger toffee.
The sugar and ginger having been boiled to turn it into toffee, it is then worked by hand, giving it a very particular "threaded" texture. This particular specialist shop does so with more idea of hygiene than most, so the production is behind plate-glass, rather than on the street at the shop door. The hot toffee from the boiler is spread out on a slab and worked with spatulas until cool enough to be worked by hand. It is then kneaded and pulled, stretched into strips and cut into bite-size pieces. They make the toffee in three strengths: mild, medium and strong. The strong is definitely only for those who are keen on spice!
Fenghuang is a major centre for tourism, principally by Chinese tour groups, though the number of western visitors is gradually increasing.
A further attraction is that it is in an area occupied by the Miao minority, and a large proportion of the residents of the town are Miao. In consequence, there are many food specialities in Fenghuang, both dishes in restaurants and snacks from stalls in the streets, which draw on the Miao culture and on the resources around.