A surprised find. I wanted to go to the famous 狮子楼 but the queue was 58 tables before I can have mine. I skipped lunch because of the big breakfast. Totally famished after walking around (30K steps). So just wondered around and found this small little place around the back alley call 此间私房菜. Rooms only, full. But the nice owner pulled up a table for me right next to the kitchen galley. Amazing find!
The poet Li Bai was full of praises of the city of Yangzhou. It is in the crossroads of China South and the capital in the North, and the transportation hub for the ancient Grand Canals of China. It wasn’t Mar (lunar calendar was on Feb when I was there), so I could experience the beautiful blooms of Skinny West Lake 瘦西湖.
The Classic Huaiyang
Because it was the financial centre for China for so many centuries, Yangzhou cuisine or Huaiyang cuisine is rated as one of the top 4 cuisine of China (beside Cantonese, Szechuan and Lu cuisine). Huaiyang cuisine is about the locality of the ingredients as well as the knife work of the chef. Tofu cut into really thin julienne and cooked in a clear chicken stock flavoured with other ingredients – the main star of this dish is the knife work.
大煮干丝 julienned chicken and tofu and bamboo shoots cooked in chicken oil and stock. This dish is made by cutting 1 cm thick tofu into 30 thin strands. Very flavourful and the layer of oil kept the soup hot. The tofu is not yellow, the chicken oil made it appeared so. The chicken soup was great for a cold night like this. But the tofu was not blanched and still have the bean taste.
韭菜鳝丝 River Eels with Chives. Usually it’s more eel than chives, but it has been reduced to a single serve of eel, but you still need the same amount of chives to line the plate. However, the eels were very fresh and good. The cleaning technique was very skilful, none of the muddy taste, I cleaned out the entire plate of eels. And balance of the sweet sauce and the chives (really a lot of chives) was just right. It is usually the simple dish that highlighted the capability of the chefs in the restaurant. This dish just defined the high standard of the team in the kitchen.
蟹粉狮子头 Crab meat lion’s head meatball is a traditional dish in Huaiyang cuisine made first in Yangzhou and Zhenjiang. The meat ball is made with the traditional 50-50 mix of lean and fatty meat, with appropriate amount of tofu. Chinese mitten crab meat from the nearby lake is put on top of the meatball. Ordinary lion’s head meatballs can be stewed or braised, but crab meat lion’s head should only be stewed.
清炖狮子头 Stewed Lion’s head meatball. The best I ever had so far. Stewed with a lot of HK Kailan. The meatball was 50:50 balanced between fat and lean mean. And the tofu in the meatball just balanced the whole dish. Not overtly sweet like the Shanghai version. Suited for Singaporean tastebud.
扬州炒饭 Yangzhou Fried Rice. The original. Not made from Birdseye frozen vegetable, all the vegetable were freshly prepared. You can taste the difference. Every bit of the vegetables was freshly chopped, the peas were from pods not can, everything was the same size as the grains. Every mouthful was simply delicious. Knocked everyone of the tzechar fried rice in Singapore I have tasted off the chart.
龙井茶 Longjing (Dragon’s Well) tea, the cheap version. Still good enough for dinner at RMB 3 per person.
All these for one person. 120 RMB. The kitchen could not reduce the size further but the owner just charged me half price for everything.
I loved Yangzhou!
This Private Dining 此间私房菜
Tel : +86 514-87233777
Date Visited : Mar 2019