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Yunnan Eats (report)

pane | | Dec 18, 2011 08:06 PM

We traveled on a 15 day self-guided trip through Yunnan province, with a quick stop into Beijing on the flight back to the U.S.

Here are some of the highlights…

- Street food around Green Lake: yams baked in an oil drum, shaved chunks of grapefruit.

- Mushroom hot pot at Ye Jun Yuan (185 Guan Xin Road). A huge selection of refrigerated (cultivated) and frozen (wild) mushrooms and other accoutrements. My favorite dish was our first course - hung niu gan, which was a plate of deep-fried mushrooms with dried chili and garlic. We picked 4 -5 different types of mushrooms for our hot pot, thick planks of tofu, an a couple types of greens. Dinner was fantastic, affordable and filling, and this was a great meal to share with a group.

- Minority Food Hall. Pretty disappointing--the dishes we tried were too oily and not flavorful.

- Renmin Lu for touristy but enjoyable street eats, with typical ingredients displayed in plastic tubs out front--purple flowers, herbs, onion, ginger, pork hooves and fish (eating noodles!). We liked the rushan (Dai-style fried goat cheese)--rubbery inflated pockets of deep-fried cheese sprinkled with a little bit of sugar. One of the top 5 tastes of the trip was the baba purchased from a street vendor near Erhai Men Gate. A giant wheel of a roll cooked in a street-side oven, hit with just a touch of lard, this made for a perfectly light, savory breakfast. We found many interesting types of dried and fresh tofu at the street market off of Remin Lu.

- At a Dai-style restaurant in an alley off of Yu Er Lu near Dong Men Gate, we shared "Grandma's Potatoes" and a chicken dish--the potato dish was a winner.

This would be a one horse town if you packed your own horse. Of the two cafes on the square, one was closed for the season (or forever, not sure).

- Old Tree Cafe. The owners were the nicest people we met on the trip, and helped set us up with new lodging when the spot we had booked decided to close early for renovations. A curry stew with beef, pumpkin and potatoes was delicious and warming on a very cold day. The warm temperature of the banana "shake" (foamed milk with pureed banana) was surprising but ultimately satisfying against the winter chill.

- 58 Cafe. We liked the mushroom fried rice, pickled peppers, and cat in a bumblebee costume. Handy "space heater" (charcoal in a metal bowl) for chilly winter nights.

- Bars on North Tibetan Street. There are two bars side-by-side next to the main street. One was very pleasant and had simple bar snacks, like fried skin-on peanuts. The other may have been a brothel but we kept our noses down in a game of Uno and didn't get bothered. The better choice is the one with the blue-lit plastic floor. 10 Y beer, 30 Y whiskey.

- Jin Mama. After an unfortunate run-in with cheese cooked with dog the day before, we went for a safe-looking chain which seemed like a Chinese Denny's. The pork soup with mushrooms was delicious.

- Crepes sold at the tourist booth in the main square. We liked the red bean version, and I thought one of the Tibetan falcons working the crowds was eyeing it jealously.

We ended up in the xishuangbanna region later, but didn't try anything that could be easily located. The dwarf bananas were great, though.

- Quanjude for roast duck. The atmosphere is a trip: waiters with walkie-talkies, hostesses in icy blue ballgowns with fur muffs, and an iPad-based ordering system (easy for non-Chinese speakers). The duck is good, with nicely crisped skin, and expensive--we paid about $50 for dinner, which was our most expensive meal of the trip.

- Shun Yi Fu for dumplings. Another top taste of the trip--mutton potstickers, with a perfectly crusted skin and moist interior.

- Lao Jia Rou Beng for breakfast. Loved the dofu with green onions.

Photos are baba oven, mushroom hotpot, Old Tree beef stew, rushan (fried cheese), and last Shun Yi fried dumplings.