Friday, 15 June 2012
The Culinary Wonders of Yunnan 云南
Banquet fatigue is not an affliction that I find too many people sympathetic to, but I think I've found the perfect cure: Yunnan cuisine. Yunnan is located in Southwest China, and is home to no less than 24 ethnic groups (comprising around a third of the population) in addition to the majority Han Chinese. Many of these ethnic groups can also be found in nearby Burma, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. As such, the vibrant refreshing flavours found in Yunnan cuisine share many similarities to the food found in those countries. This makes it the ideal antidote to the sometimes-overwhelming hospitality that business visitors encounter in China.
In particular, the vegetarian dishes at Dian Ku Yunnan Restaurant (滇酷云南餐厅) were amongst my favourites during this (or any) visit to Beijing. (That last sentence extolling the virtues of vegetarian food was one I NEVER expected to write as a food blogger!) Dishes like stir-fried eggs with jasmine (茉莉花炒鸡蛋) were a revelation. It was quite weird eating a dish of eggs and edible flowers with the intensely fragrant, slightly bitter tones normally associated with jasmine tea. This dish is heaven on earth and one that goes really well with bamboo tube sticky rice (竹筒饭).
I also loved the Ruili pea congee (a terrible translation on the menu) that hails from the city of Ruili (瑞丽). This dish consists of wobbly blancmange-like strips (made from a kind of pea-flour) called doufen (豆粉). These strips didn't really taste of anything, but the accompanying spicy sesame oil dressing packed a punch while the herby-nutty topping gave the dish a contrast in textures.
Other vegetarian fare that hit the spot included fried towel gourd buds (炒絲瓜尖). This is another inadequate translation that doesn't really describe a tasty dish consisting of the buds and leaves from a young loofah plant stir-fried with dried chillies, garlic and ginger. The only (slightly) disappointing dish was the Ruili green papaya (瑞丽青木瓜); this Yunnan version of the famous Thai salad som tum was refreshing, but sadly lacked any real fire.
Lest you think I've gone completely veggie on you, we did order a couple of dishes with meat in them. First up was the air-pot chicken soup (气锅鸡), an amazing steamed chicken soup that came with abundant amounts of exotic mushrooms and goji berries. Like the rest of the meal, the flavours were ever so pure and natural.
Less successful was the crossing the bridge noodles (过桥米线), which disappointingly came ready assembled rather than in the customary D-I-Y style where you build your own bowl of rice noodles. There was nothing wrong with this dish; it's just that it compared unfavourably with the food that came before.
Although not strictly dessert, the meal was rounded off with pineapple sticky rice (菠萝饭). This was very moreish with the sweetness of the mixture of both black and white sticky rice cut through by the tartness of the pineapple. And while some quite potent black rice wine was on offer, we stuck to Yunnan’s other most famous drink: pu-erh tea (普洱茶) to accompany our meal.
I really liked Dian Ku; not only was the food top-notch, but the dining room was pretty cool, too. I don't remember much about the service, which probably means it was decent enough. However, as I mentioned in the last post, Beijing isn't the easiest city to get around. With that in mind, if you can't easily get to Dian Ku then alternative Yunnan restaurants in Beijing include: Dali Courtyard, No Name, South Silk Road and Yunteng Shifu (please don't laugh at my review of the latter, it was written when I had blogger L-plates on).
Dian Ku Yunnan Restaurant 滇酷云南餐厅
Address 地址: 北京 朝阳区和平西街小黄庄路1号
Tel 电话: +86-10-8428-5435