Even as a kid growing up in the US I enjoyed eating "Chinese food." When I first traveled to China for my PhD research, I naively thought that Chinese food would be somewhat similar to what is offered at the restaurant in my small town. Boy was I wrong! I've never been more glad to be wrong. Chinese food is millions of times better and more diverse than I expected.
From 2010 to 2012 I lived in Yunnan Province, which is in the southwest of China. The food in Yunnan is incredibly diverse due to 1) the numerous climates that allows for a wide range of crops to be grown and 2) the different cuisines of the 26 different ethnic minorities. For example, Tibetans, who live in high elevations in the northwest of the province have a diet based mainly on buckwheat and yak products (eg., cheese, milk, meat). In contrast, the Dai people, who typically live in the southwest of the province (near Vietnam) eat food that is extremely spicy and often incorporates tropical fruit. Additionally, Yunnan is known throughout China for their numerous species of edible mushrooms as well as their frequent use of wild-collected plant species. This makes for a delicious and diverse cuisine!
When I'm not in China I dream about noodle dishes. Seriously. In Yunnan, noodles are eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Noodles can be made out of rice, wheat, beans, or yams and noodles can be thick, thin, or pulled. The most common form of noodles in Yunnan are thin rice noodles prepared in a bowl of spicy soup that is as large as your head. A bowl of noodles in Yunnan is about 7 RMB (1.14 USD).
Pot Stickers or Dumplings (Jiao zi)
Jiao zi are delicious little morsels filled with meat or vegetables. They are eaten for any meal of the day and are served with dark vinegar and cilantro.
Dumplings (Bao zi)
Bao zi are steamed buns that are filled with meat or vegetables and served with dark vinegar. They are often incredibly cheap (5 RMB for a flat of steamed buns) and are easy to eat on the go. Bao zi are eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They are just oh so good!
Hot Pot (Huo Guo)
In Yunnan, Sichuan-style hot pot is the go to for dinner. Sichuan-style hot pot is spiced with chili peppers and Sichuan peppers (a mouth numbing spice that looks like a peppercorn). There is also usually the option to have a mild broth as well. Hot pot is a boiling broth that you add uncooked food to. When the food is cooked you remove what you want to eat from the boiling broth. This meal should be eaten slowly with friends and shared beers. Yum!
|Sichuan-style hot pot in Kunming|
|Spicy on the outside, mild on the inside|
|Note the mini glass for drinking beer!|
|Mmm spam. I love spam in my hot pot|
|Frozen tofu, fish balls, and lamb|
Barbecue (Shao Kao)
Shao kao is basically the Chinese version of barbecue; however, there are many more options available. In addition to grilled meats, vegetables, seafood, and tofu, you can have the more unusual pig's brains, chicken feet, and animal innards. Shao kao is eaten for dinner or as a late night snack (perfect for after a late night out). Shao kao is served with chili pepper powder.
Dishes can be a mix of meat, vegetables, tofu, and soups that are eaten for lunch or dinner. Dishes usually compose a large meal, and other than hot pot, can be the most expensive at about 50 RMB for a meal for two people. When ordering dishes for a group of people you should always order at least one more dish than the people eating (e.g., if ordering for 3 people you should order at least 4 dishes).
|Corn, edamame, and peppers|
|Ku gua - or bitter melon is a Yunnan specialty|
|Yu Xing Cai (sorry I don't really know the translation)|
|Copper Pot potato rice - a specialty from Fu Xian Lake|
|Broccoli with Yunnan cheese (so good!)|
|broccoli with Yunnan bacon|
|Cabbage with peppers and garlic|
|roasted meat and potatoes|
|fried red beans|
|a typical Yunnan-style meal for two|
Dai food is so incredible! Most dishes have a nice balance of spicy and sweet. My favorite dishes include pineapple rice, any kind of spicy meat, and this sweet soy and coconut milk drink with bread and jellies.
In addition to shao kao, you can find numerous street snacks such as roast corn and sweet potatoes, fried potatoes, fruit, and hard boiled eggs. Popular snacks are also in found in supermarkets or convenience stores and typically consist of nuts, sunflower seeds, and preserved eggs and meat. Additionally, you can find flower cakes and other pastries that are often filled with red bean paste.
Okay, now I really want a giant bowl of rice noodles. What country has your favorite cuisine? Do you like Chinese food?
I'm linking up with Katie from Something Winnderful for her Social Saturday linkup!