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Where simply delicious food is deliciously simple

Accustomed as I am to traditional Chinese cuisine with its regional variations, I was thrilled to find I could feast on delicious and wholesome foods while traveling across Yunnan.

A Mosuo woman offers home-made wine to tourists in Lugu Lake, a must-see place in Lijiang. Long Tao

I was pleasantly surprised to find on an almost daily basis wonderful and fresh homegrown or wild produce, prepared the way any ordinary farming family has been doing for centuries.

Imagine my initial surprise when walking along the picturesque alleyways of the UNESCO heritage site Lijiang city when a street vendor offered me sunflower seeds freshly dug out from a large sunflower pod cut from its stalk that very morning. What better sustenance than to crack a soft shell and bite into the fresh raw taste of a natural sunflower seed?

Or take the humble potato, grown by every farming household in these parts and stored through the winter months to augment daily meals. Imaginative stall-holders at the local market turn the spud into delicious snacks, shoestring bundles frying gently in a wok over coal fire nestling alongside roughly cut French fries, next to a basketful of crispy thin slices of deep-fried potato chips liberally sprinkled with salt and chili powder.

I didn't realize rural Yunnan is mushroom country until I discovered how delicious and ubiquitous a wild mushroom hotpot is in touristy Lijiang. When asked by a waiter which wild mushrooms I would like in my hotpot stock, I confessed that I had never seen such a dazzling array. Suffice to say, the boiling hot mlange of fungi soup was a feast for the senses.

I chanced upon a young farmer displaying a basketful of Matsutake mushrooms (song rong, pine mushrooms), telling me he had hand-picked them on a dawn trek through the pine forests rimming Lugu Lake northeast of Lijiang.

Matsutakes are revered as the "king of mushrooms" in Japan. But the young man only wanted a tiny fraction of its Tokyo price for his morning labor.

My love of this rare delicacy was requited when I took a bunch to a home-stay caf and had it steamed in its own juices and barbequed with a separate order of garlic chips.

Having an egg for breakfast must be the most banal first meal of the day anywhere in the world, but this reached new heights for me in Yunnan. There were freshly laid chicken eggs for sure, but it was a peddler sitting by a rustic wooden bridge cutely named The Bridge for Lovers on the shore of Lugu Lake whose array of eggs blew me away.

Key Words

Tea   West Lake   

Temple      Su Dongpo 


Fans   Embroidery


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