Before my first visit to Yangzhou, many people have told me about the Yangzhou breakfast. There’s a saying about Yangzhou’s breakfast, “早上皮包水，晚上水包皮。” Yangzhou has one of the most exquisite breakfast culture that can only be matched with its bathhouses in the evenings.
Zaocha vs Yumcha
Zaocha 早茶, or early breakfast tea, is something of an institution in Yangzhou. It is an early-morning meal where delicious small treats are served with a variety of steaming hot teas.
Zaocha in Yangzhou is a traditional, cultural and overwhelmingly social event, the only comparable to the scale and intricacy is yumcha in Guangzhou. There are major similarities but many subtle difference between yumcha and zaocha.
Dim sum, or small treats, are served in both. While yumcha was an elaborate affair of different steamed, fried, stewed and braised items served frantically in the restaurant to shouting, jostling diners, zaocha in Yangzhou is elegant and slow-paced. The food, while important, is only one part of the three morning rituals, the others being tea (yes, only the best Longjing tea will do) and the company (it’s among family and friends, a social gathering).
The quintessential Yangzhou breakfast
芥菜烧卖 Mustard green shaomai. Yangzhou folks love their mustard greens. It is a mustard green and minced pork dumpling, an upgrade to the traditional 糯米烧卖 glutinous rice shaomai. Don’t be fooled by the same Chinese words, the Yangzhou shaomai is totally different from the HK siumai. The Yangzhou variety is lighter, but the glutinous was supposed to be a filling breakfast for the working class.
空心麻球 Sweet sesame ball. Like our humcheenpang. There’s no filling, all the flavour and umami were on the nicely roasted sesame on the surface. The sticky glutinous rice ball was puffed up and baked to a slight crisp. Somewhat like an air-filled mochi baked in the oven.
千层油糕 Layered steamed rice cake. Tasted like our Teochew steamed sugar cake 白糖糕but less sweet. All the sweetness came from the glutinous molasses that were drizzled on the surface.
灌汤蒸饺 Steamed soup dumpling. The dumpling was deceiving to the eye. At first glance it looked like those steamed dumplings in HK dim sum. As you bit into one, the soup in the dumpling spurted out. It’s scalding hot so be careful. They are, in essence, xiaolongbao in dumpling skin disguise.
扬州小笼包 Yangzhou Xiaolongbao. How this is different from the dumpling was the skin was made with a different technique and softer and thinner. And how Yangzhou xiaolongbao are different from Wuxi or Shanghai, they are less sweet, almost like Dintaifeng.
高邮双黄蛋 Double yolk salted eggs. Gaoyou district in Yangzhou is famous for rearing ducks and making salted eggs. And because of the abundance of the duck eggs, the resourceful Gaoyou businesses found a way to distinguish the double-yolked eggs and made them into the famous double yolk salted eggs. You have to eat it both yolk and white together. If you split the two, the oily from the yolk will dripped away and disrupt the balance between saltiness and texture.
A little trivial, these eggs were exported to Singapore as early as 1910!
三丁包 Three-diced bun. It is made with three types of diced ingredients – diced pork, diced bamboo shoot and diced chicken. These ingredients are stir-fried with savoury sauces and then wrapped into a bun skin similar to the charsiew bun in HK. Two major difference between the Yangzhou bun and HK bun, the skin. I prefer the HK bun, but they tend to stick to your teeth. Yangzhou bun are less sticky.
There’s a variation to the three-diced bun called the five-diced bun, with added diced shrimps and diced mushroom. I find the three-diced bun better.
蟹黄汤包 hairy crab soup bun. The first time I had this was in Shanghai Taikang Dumpling, but Yangzhou was where it all started. The waitress took the delicate dumpling from the steamer and carefully plopped it on the plate. It was almost the same size and quivering with delicious goodness inside. The locals will carefully push this dumpling to the side of the plate, bite a small hole and suck the soup inside. It is then finished off with a dash of sweet vinegar from Zhenjiang for the filing of meat and crab roe.
For foreigners like me, a straw is provided to slurp it without causing a mess. Yummy.
虾籽馄饨 Shrimp roe wanton. Shrimp roe is a very common ingredient for Hong Kong-style wanton noodles. I was pleasantly surprised that I can find this one the menu. But the Yangzhou style wanton was rather different from the Hong Kong wanton. HK wanton was typical one shrimp per wanton, here the shrimp was minced together with pork. The stock was not made from dried fish or pork bones, but a rather salty shellfish base (I guessed dried shrimp skin). I cannot say I enjoyed it, I am a Southerner at heart.
QuYuan, the backstory
QuYuan was once a mansion owned by salt merchants of Yangzhou. Emperor Qianlong came down to Yangzhou 6 times, and stayed here 4 times. He was the one that gave it the name, “Pleasure Garden”. It was located just next to Slender West Lake, so it would be the perfect breakfast stop before going to the famous tourist attraction.
While QuYuan Teahouse was a relative lightweight in the shadows of YeChun, FuChun and GongHeChun, collectively known as the Three Springs of Yangzhou 扬州“三春” – 富春、冶春、共和春, it was made famous because of the mansion that was now converted to a modern guesthouse.
It was “rumoured” that Jiang Zeming, a native of Yangzhou, would always stay here when he visited Yangzhou, and he would be served the breakfast of QuYuan Teahouse, Hence, it is breakfast fit for the Chairman. And so it was!.
QuYuan Teahouse 趣园茶社
Changchun Rd, Hanjiang Qu, Yangzhou Shi, Jiangsu Sheng, China, 225002
Tel : 0514-87291777
Date Visited : Mar 2019