Friday, 15 September 2017

Qin Yuan Chun Shanghai restaurant in Taichung 沁園春 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Qin-Yuan-Chun-Taichung-沁園春

Qin Yuan Chun 沁園春 is an old, famous, well loved Shanghai restaurant in Taichung, Taiwan. Its dishes are as Shanghai as any, if not more so than some Shanghainese restaurants across the sea on the mainland.

Why so?

Qin-Yuan-Chun-Taichung-沁園春

The nearly seven decades old restaurant has a rustic casual ambiance, heavy dark wood furniture, imposing deep red signboards and pillars with gold painted Chinese calligraphy, vintage sepia photographs on the walls, it is usually packed with carefree chattering diners.

Qin Yuan Chun has been here, in this same place since it was founded in 1949.

Most of the customers were middle aged regulars, so were the chefs busy behind the glass panel making xiao long bao. Qin Yuan Chun is popular with tourists from Japan, Korea, Hong Kong etc who heard about its famous Shanghai cuisine such as their xiao long bao and red bean buns.

Qin-Yuan-Chun-Taichung-沁園春

Qin Yuan Chun is now run by 郭文章 whose wife's Chiang family came from Wuxi 無錫, an industrial lake city on the Taihu Lake 太湖 140km west of Shanghai city. With the defeat of Kuomintang by the Communists in 1949, this influential Chiang family left Wuxi with family members, staff, servants and private chefs. (Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai Shek is from another influential Chiang family.)

In order to sustain themselves, the Chiangs from Wuxi went into various businesses and Qin Yuan Chun 沁園春 restaurant helmed by the family's private chefs was one of them. The initial years of Qin Yuan Chun and also Taiwan were pretty difficult. QYC's owner was even embroiled in political intrigue - arrested on QYC's opening day in 1949, accused of being a Communist sympathiser as Mao Tse Tung coincidentally wrote a poem entitled Qin Yuan Chun Snow 沁園春雪.

Qin-Yuan-Chun-Taichung-沁園春

Qin Yuan Chun 沁園春 and Taiwan weathered the seven decades - the old school restaurant is a favourite meeting place of Taiwan and overseas luminaries pining for authentic homeland flavours. Political and business dignitaries who have graced these humble but dignified halls include Chiang Wei Kuo, Richard Li Tzar-kai etc.

Throughout the years, the Chiang patriarch stressed that Qin Yuan Chun has two key responsibilities. One, the livelihood of Qin Yuan Chun staff (who were Chiang family loyalists following them across the sea in 1949). Two, QYC is the place for compatriots to enjoy a taste of flavours from the home land which they left years ago.

Qin-Yuan-Chun-Taichung-沁園春

Some of Qin Yuan Chun's chefs have been with the restaurant for over four decades through thick and thin, so their dishes have an old school authenticity.

We tried a few of Qin Yuan Chun's Jiangsu and Shanghai dishes during our visit.

Qin-Yuan-Chun-Taichung-沁園春

First, the iconic xiao long bao 小籠包. We had several baskets of these dainty little purses of meat balls and hot broth.

Qin-Yuan-Chun-Taichung-沁園春

The thin dough skin warps a small tight tender ball of savoury sweet minced pork and fat. Be careful when you bite into a xiao long bao as the meat ball is suspended in tongue scalding hot, savoury sweet broth.

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Qin Yuan Chun is also famous for their 豆沙大包 or bean paste bun.

Qin-Yuan-Chun-Taichung-沁園春

Qin Yuan Chun makes the best rendition of this humble staple that I have ever tasted. Over the years, I have eaten countless humble staple tau sar bao - this was the best.

The fluffy spongy snowy skin wraps a warm ebony black mildly sweet bean paste. The oozy paste felt smooth and creamy rich on the tongue but it is all red beans with a bit of sugar.

Qin-Yuan-Chun-Taichung-沁園春

The Shanghainese have their own version of poached chicken - drunken chicken 紹興醉雞 which they flavour with rice wine. I've tried a few famous ones in Shanghai but didn't like it as the chicken were mostly overdone making the meat tough and stringy.

Qin-Yuan-Chun-Taichung-沁園春

I like Qin Yuan Chun's rendition which is 90+% done with some pink left. There is a jelly layer of congealed fat between the smooth skin and tender meat. The tender and juicy meat has natural chicky sweetness which is well complemented by the taste and aroma of rice wine 紹興醉.

Qin-Yuan-Chun-Taichung-沁園春

Every Shanghainese restaurant has their version of meat balls known as 砂鍋獅子頭 or Lion's Head.

Qin-Yuan-Chun-Taichung-沁園春

The savoury sweet ball of minced lean meat and pork fat is deep fried and served in a clay pot of simmering vegetable and bone broth. It is so named because the meat ball's rough surface resembles the surface of stone guardian lions commonly found outside prominent Chinese buildings like banks. I believe size also has something to do with it as the meat balls are always large like tennis balls.

Qin-Yuan-Chun-Taichung-沁園春

Another Qin Yuan Chun signature, Wuxi Ribs 無錫肉骨頭 - a comfort dish from Jiangsu.

The ribs are slow braised in soy sauce, aromatics (star anise , cinnamon etc) and sugar until the juicy meat is fall off the bone tender. The reduced, caramelised sauce coats the spare ribs with a gleaming reddish brown glaze.

Pork lovers - Must Try this savoury sweet aromatic Wuxi classic.

Qin-Yuan-Chun-Taichung-沁園春

Stir fried eels 清炒鱔糊 - a Qin Yun Chun signature.

Eels are found in every market in Shanghai as eels are used in many Shanghainese dishes.

In this dish, the small cleaned eels are stir fried with soy bean paste, rice wine and given a dash of hot aromatic oil before eating. Nice, silky smooth, soft flesh with savoury flavour from the fermented soy bean paste and a very slight earthy sweet taste from the eel.

We had a few other dishes, all of which were expertly executed and the ingredients were fresh.

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Sweet and Sour Pork 糖醋排骨.

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Tofu with Minced Crab 蟹粉豆腐.

This is interesting. My first time tasting this lovely savoury sweet dish.

It's small blocks of fried tofu sauteed in a stock made with mashed crab meat, roe, soy sauce, rice wine etc and thicken with pumpkin puree. Shanghainese hairy crabs (mitten crabs) are used when it is in season.

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雪菜百頁 Tofu "tapes" stir fried with snow peas.

Qin-Yuan-Chun-Taichung-沁園春

紅椒乾絲肉絲 A comfort dish - strips of tofu and lean pork stir fried with soy sauce and julienned chili.

Qin-Yuan-Chun-Taichung-沁園春

No one is allowed to leave a Jiangsu / Shanghai restaurant without having a bamboo shoot dish! Joke lah 😝

So, we had 齋菜鮮筍絲 or simple stir fried julienned fresh bamboo shoot. So sweet and crunchy. Yes, Must Have 😄

Qin-Yuan-Chun-Taichung-沁園春

Last but not least, I like this deep fried roll 炸銀絲卷. The sweet roll is fluffy and spongy inside while the golden brown outside has a slight crisp.

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4-Stars (out of 5). When you are in Taichung, Taiwan and want to experience a heritage restaurant serving authentic Jiangsu and Shanghai food, check out Qin Yuan Chuan 沁園春. The food here is great. Just be warned that Qin Yuan Chun's dishes are meaty and hearty as most Jiangsu and Shanghai dishes are - you won't have much tummy space left for other things after a visit here 😄

For xiao long bao, Qin Yuan Chun is a good if not better alternative to Ding Tai Fung - why not try the historic, storied shop for a different experience?

Qin-Yuan-Chun-Taichung-沁園春

Restaurant name: Qin Yuan Chun Shanghai restaurant 沁園春 
Address No. 129, Section 1, Taiwan Boulevard, Central District, Taichung City, Taiwan 400
GPS24°08'22.5"N 120°40'58.0"E  |  24.139582, 120.682782
Tel+886 4 2220 0735
Hours: Lunch 11:00am – 2:00pm | Dinner 5:00pm – 9:00pm (Monday closed)

Non Halal

Date visited: 19 Jul 2017



If you are interested in Mao Tse Tung's Qin Yuan Chun Snow 沁園春雪 poem, here it is.

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