Yunnan Food, Part 2

I originally expected this trip in Yunnan to take me about a month: two weeks with Hyeongnim up to Shangri-la followed by two weeks back down to Laos. Dream on! It’s now been 56 days since I got back to China (274 since I left Korea), and I’m still 1200+ km from the border with Laos. And that’s by the quick route.

Of course, I’m not complaining. The longer I wander around here, the more I get to eat amazing food, such as:

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Yunnan style “Dou Fen” (bean powder). It’s like noodles made out of Jello, except the Jello is made from soy beans or green peas rather than horse hooves. Dress with scallions, red pepper, cilantro, soy sauce, and vinegar. An awesome snack when I’m tired of rice and noodles.

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Chinese french fries.

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“Er si,” or rice pastry chunks. Stir-fried with spinach and pickled cabbange. Super chewy, super filling.

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A countryside breakfast at Lhamo’s house: steamed buns and some fried snacks, one chewy and one crispy. Add hot sauce or pickles, wash down with Tibetan Yak butter tea. The next four are also home cookin’:

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Fava beans – a bit stinky, but nice anyway.

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Fennel omelette soup (from backyard chickens!).

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Potatoes and pumpkins.
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Spicy radish pickles.

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Speaking of home cookin’: Jessica and I put together quite a vegetable stash. I tried to repay her generosity by working my magic in the kitchen.

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Result: miscreant asparagus sautee.

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Salad with kidney beans over fresh rice noodles.

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Dumplings, twelve for a dollar. Take your pickS; shiitake, potato, pickled cabbage, red bean paste, tofu, or peanuts and sugar.

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Monster white beans, again sauteed with pickled cabbage.

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Green beans (actually, green pods, purple beans) and green pumpkin.

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The best tofu yet: no mouth-numbing Sichuan peppers, just some scallions and pepper flakes. A little crisp, perfectly savory.


Relatively boring camping salad.

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Much better now that I’ve hit MANGO TERRITORY. $0.75/lb.


The breakfast counterpart: raw oatmeal with peanuts, apples, cookie crumbs, and a swig of honey.

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At the market.

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Naxi minority Baba bread. Something like an Indian paratha, all twisted and fluffy. Except it tasted buttery and slightly crumbly, like a biscuit. Made me miss Popeye’s.

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Stir-fried lotus root.


The standard Baba, plain and fluffy.

…and stuffed with pickled peppers.


“Qi you cha,” a Lisu tribe tea that looks like Tibetan “Su you” (yak butter) tea, but replaces some of the richness with smokiness. It felt like a liquid cigarette, actually. Sources tell me it’s made using tree sap, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were just tobacco.

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Another local specialty: bamboo shoots. Hearty, squeaky, a little slimy, totally delicious.

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Tomato and zucchini stir-fry. Who knew?

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I always jump on the chance to eat soybeans in a non-tofu form. With fresh, crisp, juicy corn – often it’s the simple dishes that are the most mind-bogglingly delicious.

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Raw turnip strips dressed with vinegar and spices. Gave two of the four of us the runs.
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China’s national dish: tomatoes and eggs.

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Pumpkins and onions.

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Funny boss who didn’t know what was in her own dumplings. An Israeli friend asked for a vegetable dumpling and got one with cabbage and pork. I asked for a vegetable and got a plain mantou (steamed bread, no filling.) I asked for a fried pocket bread, which she said was filled with salty stuff, but it turned out to be empty. Finally, I went for one of the sugar dumplings.

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Something about the taste rang a bell. Fragrant smell, rich taste, unlike anything else in the world. Could it be? Really? Is it? PERILLA! Finally, after nine months, I’ve been reunited with my favorite Korean food. Have mercy! I tried to buy her out, but she only had two more. One of which wound up being empty.

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So, yeah, I bought a pound of perilla powder from the boss and used it to make Korean perilla noodles for friends at the hostel. I think if I ever go back to having a job, I ought to try being the Johnny Appleseed or George Washington Carver of Perilla.

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And, last but not least, another local speciality: “Mi Xian,” rice threads. Your choice of soup (spicy broth with pork, pickled cabbage, and cilantro and scallions) or stir-fried. I always take the latter, with an extra helping of veggies, since the soup doesn’t fill me up. Supplemented with healthy dollops of red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, and perilla (not pictured) out of my private stash.

Whew, I’m all caught up on the last month of amazing eats. Now I’m headed south again, this time for real, straight for the tropics. The next post should contain lots of bragging about dirt-cheap pineapples and jackfruits. Stay tuned!

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5 Responses to Yunnan Food, Part 2

  1. zara says:

    ㅎㅎ드뎌 들깨가루를 구했나 보네요^^

    • Michael Roy says:

      찾는 데 9개월 걸렸지만…아이구 맛있다. 이제 “미선” (쌀국수)볶음 시킬 때 들깨가루 조금씩 조금씩 부려료 ㅎㅎ. 중국 백배 줄기기!

  2. Sunny Yun says:

    They look all fantastic. It is after midnight and I am hungry after reading about Yunnan Food.

  3. The bamboo sprouts seems like a good rewilder’s food. Were they on the starchy side or closer to a green onion? The fennel soup and potatoes and pumpkin call out to me as a once a week nourishing delight. Anyway it all looks amazing and delicious.

    • Michael Roy says:

      The bamboo shoots were awesome – just boil them, peel them, and dip them in a little salt or soy sauce. Definitely not starchy; I’d say more of a rubbery sort of feel. I mean that in a good way.

      Bamboo is definitely an environmentalist’s dream plant – you can eat it, you can burn it, you can build houses, furniture, and aqueducts with it, you can use it to fend off wild dogs. Only the coconut palm rivals it in versatility.