Yangzhou is my favourite Chinese destination. The third- or fourth-tier city does not yet have a “kao tie” or high-speed rail connection. As a result, Yangzhou is spared the hurling burly of bustling visitors who usually end up stripping away the charm of a place, replacing it with insensitive tourism. You come to Yangzhou for Huaiyang cuisine, culture, breakfast, reflection, and a respect for the city. Of China’s original “Four Great Cuisines”, Huaiyang (named for the Huai and Yangtze rivers) is one of the finest.
Yangzhou is its beating heart. My other favourite is Yue (more popularly known as Cantonese), that being of my maternal ancestry. (The other two are Chuan, or Sichuan, and Lu, better referred to as Shandong cuisine). Huaiyang cuisine possesses an extra feather in its hat because Yue does not have cold dishes.
Huaiyang chefs are legendary for their ming-boggling slicing skills. One of the classic dishes is slivers of beancurd that when presented as a cold dish, reminds more of a landscape painting from the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279). A wonderful place to stay is in the old part of the city near the Grand Canal. Yangzhou was a favourite of Qing Emperor Qianlong (1711 – 1799), who visited six times. The royal procession of barges would drop the Manchu ruler off at one of the stopping points here in the Grand Canal. Mercure Yangzhou is situated at 107 Taizhou Road.
Text: CH’NG Poh Tiong