Sunday, March 23, 2008

Street Food in Yunnan, China




Yunnan province, in the South-west of China, is close to Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and has a small area in the North-West bordering Tibet. This mountainous region has a climate that is tropical and yet pleasantly cool the whole year round. Kunming, the capital is known as the City of Eternal Spring. The area is very rich in natural resources, and was one branch of the famed Silk Road. Yunnan's products include the best rare Chinese medicinal herbs, the famous Pu-erh tea, historically sent as tribute to the Emperor in Beijing, jade, silk, flowers, iron ore and gold. Foodwise, it is famous for its mushrooms and ham. Many species of strange-shaped mushrooms thrive in this wet, cool environment and some of them are known for their medicinal properties. The dry mountain air also makes Yunnan ham the best in China. And it is the province with the largest number of ethnic minorities (26). Otherwise known as Hill tribes. The presense of these tribes make this area an anthropologist's paradise for studying the migration of humans ,their languages, music, food and customs. The hodgepodge of people you can find include the Yi, Lahu, Yao, Hui, Hmong, Miao, Tibetan, Buyi, Bai, Dai, Naxi, Hui, Jinpo, Black Musa.

Grilled chicken head and feet is a favorite snack food in Yunnan province. It is eaten accompanied by grilled cubes of sweet potato and hard tofu. Washed down with the local beer, the crunchy bony parts and gelatinous skin combine with the exotic smell and flavor from cloves, aniseed, sesame, soya sauce and cinnamon to provide a unique gastronomic experience. The chewy comb of a rooster [in the bottom part of picture] is considered especially delicious. Cost of head/feet and yam/cassava about US$1.20
Third picture shows 'wet' dumplimgs being prepared in a rustic roadside eatery. These dumplings are half-steamed and half-fried, and eaten by being dunked like doughnuts into a rich beef bouillion. The soup is garnished with lots of ginger, scallions, coriander leaves and dried chili powder. Cost: US$0.30 each.
Bottom picture is less gastronomically intimidating. It is the delicious meat of Geese that have been reared in the fertile upper reaches of the Pearl River, which has its source in Yunnan although it flows into the South China Sea near Hong Kong. This portion costs about US$4.00.

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