Another old institution of Yangzhou opens in Shanghai, making it a bingo for all the famous eats in the nearby provinces to be available in the megapolis of Shanghai.
「早上皮包水，晚上水包皮。」This old saying describes two of Yangzhou favourite activities. In the morning, it’s about “putting water into the body” (elaborate breakfast tea). And in the evening, it’s “putting the body into water” (bathhouses and foot massage). Yechun Teahouse 冶春茶社, together with Fuchun 富春 and Gonghechun 共和春, are known as the “Three Springs of Yangzhou”. They are all centuries-old restaurants that have characterised the Yangzhou’s spirit of breakfast.
In Yangzhou people often say, “If you haven’t been to Yechun, you haven’t been to Yangzhou.” Yechun Tea House was founded in 1877 during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). It was said that Yechun Tea House was originally part of the private garden of the poet Wang Shizhen (1634-1711). Later due to people’s word of mouth, Yechun Tea House became famous and a gathering place for literati to share calligraphy, poetry and painting art while having a bite or two. Yangzhou local boy, Jiang Zemin visited Yechun Tea House many times and even left his horrible handwriting 🙂 on the wall.
Tea is a must for every Yangzhou person in the morning. And typically a cheaper variety of Longjing tea (dragon well green tea) was served. If you are not an expert in Chinese tea, this would do fine as the price range of Longjing can range from this ¥8 pot to ¥800 per pot.
I didn’t try this when I was in Yangzhou, but 烫干丝 Shredded tofu and chicken in stock was must have for breakfast. I could not understand why you would start the day with such a heavy dish until I tried it. The soup was light and not salty despite the dark colour. And the tofu was shredded like the chicken which was a test of the chef’s knife work. The strains of tofu and chicken soaked up the soup beautifully.
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. A small plastic straw was given for you to suck out the steaming hot soup wrapped in the delicate skin. I used the traditional technique of pushing the dumpling to the side of the plate, bit a small incision and sucked out the soup slowly. Then I ate the remaining king and filling with vinegar and ginger.
扬州小笼包 Yangzhou soup dumplings are less sweet compared to the ones from Wuxi or Shanghai Nanxiang. In fact they were almost like Dintaifeng, but bigger. Nothing special these days as you can get Dintaifeng everywhere in the world. Yechun has similar ambitions, with branches springing up in Taipei and Singapore as well.
三丁包 Three-diced bun is made with three types of diced ingredients – diced pork 肉丁, diced bamboo shoot 笋丁 and diced chicken 鸡丁. Unlike Cantonese buns, the texture of these Yangzhous bun were closer to the Northern mantou buns 馒头. The savoury filling was similar to the salty side dishes that were served with mantou.
黄桥烧饼 Crispy sesame bread came in two flavours – salty or sweet. Since we had ordered quite a bit of savoury dim sum, we ordered a sweet version. Imagine filo pastry with a sesame crust, and in the middle a caramel of melted sugar paste. Beautiful sweet tones with fragrant sesame in every mouthful. How do you know if it’s the sweet version – looked out for the pine nuts on the crusts.
蒸饺 Steamed 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.
What I liked about this place was that you can order a variety of dim sum for your group with having to order excessively. Everything with the exception of xiaolongbao (4/8/12 pieces per basket) can be order individually. So even when we were a party of two, we could taste the essentials of the Yangzhou breakfast.
However, this is still a state-owned enterprise. Yechun has been bought over by the Jiangsu province sovereign funds, and unlike Temasek or GIC, this would make them essentially “iron rice bowls”. So don’t expect any fantastic service, just adequate. For the price you paid, there are better places for breakfast in Shanghai, but if you want to save a trip to Yangzhou, this is it.
Yechun Teahouse 冶春茶社
Tel : 021 63350258
Date visited : Jan 2022