The first time I visited Yunnan Province was in July and August 2010. It was my very first time ever in China. After starting my journey across China’s Southwest in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, I headed northwest to Dali, Lijiang and Shangri-La from where I flew to Lhasa to continue my travels through Tibet. In November 2013 I revisited Kunming, Dali and Lijiang and I did a two-day trek through the Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Shilin Stone Forest close to Kunming, Yunnan
Lake Erhai in Dali, Yunnan
Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan
On both trips I had the chance to indulge the delicious yunnanese cuisine which is as diverse as Yunnan’s landscape. From pineapple rice, mint potatoes, sauteed vegetables, rice noodles, water boiled fish, grilled chicken with herbs, pig ear slices, marinated beef and spicy lamb to yak momos you can get it all.
A Yunnan Cooking class
When I was in Beijing last year in August I heard about the opportunity to attend Yunnan Cooking classes in Beijing. There were four different courses I could choose from. I registered myself for a Yunnan Cooking class where I learned how to whip up “Yunnan Boluo Fan” – Pineapple Rice -, “Yunnan Bo He Tu Dou” – Yunnan Mint Potatoes – and “Yun Nan Xiang Cai Jiang Ji” – Yunnan Chicken with Garlic & Coriander Dressing.
The day before I had done another Cooking class where I learned how to prepare Hand Pulled Noodles, a local speciality of Xinjiang Province, a region which I explored later that year on my journey along the Silk Road of China.
This time we were only two people in the Cooking class. The other participant was an australian female called Jen who worked for the australian embassy in Beijing. Our Cooking instructor Sue, a young chinese, was born and raised in Zhejiang province, but moved to the Netherlands as a young girl and returned to China only a few years ago.
“Yunnan Boluo Fan” – Pineapple Rice
We started the Cooking class with preparing “Yunnan Boluo Fan”, the Pineapple rice. Therefore we needed two whole pineapples, sticky white rice and purple or black rice (which both had already soaked overnight), raisins – alternatively you can use currants -, sliced almonds and rock sugar. Since we were only two people in the class we used only one pineapple.
We mixed the sticky and the black rice, put it on a cheesecloth into a Steamer and let it rest there for one hour. In the meantime we dissolved the rock sugar in hot water and poured the sugar water over the raisins. We sliced the pineapples into halfs and hollowed them with a spoon. After removing the hard core of the pineapple we diced the fruit pulp into small pieces of about 1 cm by 1 cm. Then we combined the pineapple, the raisins and the sliced almonds with the rice and spooned the mixture into the hollowed pineapple halfs.
We put these to rest into a steamer, normally for 20 minutes. But I think, we let them there for a bit longer because we whipped up the Mint Potatoes and the Chicken before taking them out again.
“Yun Nan Xiang Cai Jiang Ji” – Yunnan Chicken with Garlic & Coriander Dressing
While the pineapple rice was steaming, we prepared “Yun Nan Xiang Cai Jiang Ji” – the Yunnan Chicken with Garlic & Coriander Dressing. For this dish we needed three chicken legs, deboned with skin on, lemon grass stalks, smashed thumb size ginger, six cloves of garlic – crushed, fresh red chili peppers, coriander, three tablesoons of minced garlic, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, sugar, salt, cooking wine, white pepper powder and vegetable oil.
As I wanted to meet a friend in the evening and I didn’t want to smell of garlic I asked if it would be possible to prepare that dish without garlic. But Sue told me that it is impossible to prepare this dish WITHOUT garlic, all I could do is put less garlic in my portion of chicken. She also gave me tips what to drink in General to avoid smelling of garlic even after eating garlic.
We marinated the chicken legs in a a bowl with the sliced lemon grass stalks, the smashed thumb size ginger and the crushed garlic. We added the dark soy sauce, two teaspoons of sugar, salt, the cooking wine and the white pepper powder, mixed the ingredients and left them to marinate for half an hour.
In the meantime we de-seeded the red chilies and chopped them roughly. We also chopped the coriander roughly and put both ingredients together in a bowl. In another bowl we dissolved one tablespoon of sugar with three tablespoons of light soy sauce, three tablespoons of warm water and mixed it with the chopped coriander and chilies.
We heated three tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wok and fried one sliced lemon grass stalk till fragant. Then we removed it and left the oil in the wok. We stir-fried the garlic in that oil until it released its aroma, then we removed the wok from the heat and poured over the chilies and the coriander soy sauce mixture.
We added two tablespoons of oil in a frying pan, put the marinated chicken legs into the pan while leaving the marinade in the bowl and fried the chicken legs skin down till they were crisp. Then we flipped the chicken over to the other side and fried it till it was cooked. We added some water into the pan so that it cooked more evenly.
The length of the frying time depends on the thickness of the chicken. Instead of frying you can also grill the chicken, using a grilling pan. Therefore the grilling pan must be smoking hot. You also have to plan more cooking time because grilling the chicken takes more time than frying the meat. To grill the chicken brush oil on the chicken legs and place them skin down first into the grilling pan. Don’t move the chicken until the skin becomes brown and crisp.
Once the meat was cooked, we sliced the chicken and put the slices on a plate where we poured over the dressing consisting of chilies, garlic and coriander.
“Yunnan Bo He Tu Dou” – Yunnan Mint Potatoes
For the Yunnan Mint Potatoes besides potatoes we needed chinese leek, coriander and mint leaves – all three ingredients roughly chopped -, soy bean paste, light soy sauce, sugar, five chili peppers (optional), chili oil, salt, white pepper powder and vegetable oil.
First we peeled the potatoes, cut them into quarters and sliced them at an angle into bite-size pieces. Then we put oil in a wok for deep -frying. Once the oil was hot enough (that is when a wooden chopstick touching the bottom of the wok produces bubbles), we added the bite-size potatoes pieces and fried them until they were golden which is normally after three to five minutes. When they were ready we drained and transfered them to a paper towel-lined plate which we set aside.
Using a clean wok we heated 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and added the five chili peppers which we fried for one to two minutes, until fragant. Then we removed them leaving the oil in the wok. We put one teaspoon of bean paste and the chopped leek into the wok and stir-fried the mixture for five minutes until the bean paste was fragant and the leek was soft. We put in one tablespoon of light soy sauce and one teaspoon of sugar and combined the ingredients. Then we put in the fried potatoes and stired well, so that all potatoes were covered with the seasoning. Afterwards we mixed salt to taste and a pinch of white pepper powder in chili oil. We added the chopped coriander and the mint leaves and stired well.
Once all dishes were ready we took the pineapple halfs with the rice out of the steamer, placed the chicken and the mint potatoes on plates and together we indulged our self-prepared dishes which brought back amazing memories from my two trips across Yunnan Province.
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