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  1. These wild mushrooms thrive when a couple of rainy days are followed by half a day or so of sun. That’s how it’s been this summer, and it has led to a bumper crop. As you probably already know, Yunnan is China’s top producer of wild mushrooms. We harvest a couple dozen varieties in the mountainous parts of the province. Lots of them are exported regionally, bringing top dollar in the fine dining restaurants of Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo. I used to just buy them at my nearby farmers market, until I was convinced by local friends to visit the mother lode late this spring. By this they
  2. Here's a look at how this fresh tea brews up. (This article is a companion to one about shopping for spring tea. You can read that one here: https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58172-hello-spring-tea-2019-早春茶/?tab=comments#comment-451546 .) It's the biluochun 碧螺春茶 from Youleshan Mountain 攸乐山 in deep south Xishuangbanna 西双版欸州。A two hundred-gram bag of it cost me 25 Yuan and will probably last me until the end of the year. This is plenty beaucoup cups of good tea. It's even enough that I can give a little to a good friend or two as well so they can try it at home themselves.
  3. Here's the backstory to yesterday's recipe. (Link, in case you missed it: https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56622-spicy-green-peppers-and-mushrooms-香菇炒青椒/?tab=comments#comment-438182 ) Let me give you a look at my trip to the outdoor market for the ingredients. It's a look at my neighborhood wet market in early summer. It's also a daily-life taste of the non-tourist China. (As usual, you can click the photos to enlarge them.) It was clear that lots of people had the same idea at the same time because it was hard to find a place to park my bike outside the gat
  4. Jianshui Old Town 建水故城 is full of cultural relics, and one that's outstanding is the Confucius Temple. It's one of the best preserved and is the second largest in all of China, second only to the one at his birthplace in Qufu, Shandong 山东省曲阜市。I've been to both and like this one better because it isn't so vast; the compound in Qufu is too big to tour on foot. It was built during the Yuan Dynasty 元代 about the year 1285, and like many such places, it has been restored many times. The pamphlet you get at the door on the way in after paying your 60 Yuan says it has been rebuilt 40 times.
  5. This Qing Dynasty 清代 estate is one of the main tourist draws of Jianshui, something not to be missed if you are anywhere close. It was built as a family compound complete with 42 courtyards and 214 rooms, occupying 50,000 square meters of grounds. It's arranged somewhat like a maze, and it's easy to get turned around. But if you wander long enough you will encounter family shrines, a clean blue-water lake and even a three-story pagoda. Many parts of the estate are fancifully named after places, people and events in "Dream of the Red Chamber" 红楼梦。 This is the main entrance, not far
  6. Went to Jianshui last week to show a couple of American friends around. Thought I might share some photos with you since it's cold outside and I'm huddling by the heater at home here in Kunming sipping hot tea. It's a small city, small by China standards anyhow, at about half a million population, south of Kunming in Honghe Prefecture 红河州. Getting there takes a little under 3 hours by train and is faster by bus. They have better weather than we do, seldom snows in the winter and the summer heat tops out at 31 or 32 degrees. It's one of my favorite spots in Yunnan, and I've been se
  7. Not only is Yuantong Temple 圆通寺 ancient, beautiful, and peaceful, it's a bargain at only 6 Yuan. In a time where many of China's tourist attractions have become inflated in price and swarmed by crowds of selfie-snapping yokels, Yuantong Temple remains blissfully small scale. It's someplace I visit a couple times every year. Let me take you along on my most recent trip, a week or so ago. Near sections of the approaching block of Yuantong Street 圆通路 are lined with shops selling incense, icons, and assorted religious paraphenalia. One almost always finds soothsayers 算命 squatting on lo
  8. Saw chance coverage Friday on the six-o'clock local news of the opening of this year's Yunnan Pu'er Tea Expo. (Quickly took these two snapshots of the TV screen so I could read them again after the program.) Decided to go have a look. It sounded like one of the fringe benefits of living in Kunming, which has become a major tea hub, especially for Pu'er tea. Turned out that it was well worth the effort and bus fare. It was held in the Convention and Expo Center, which is locally known as 国贸。 Several blocks were roped off to allow pedestrian access to several larg
  9. These lovely beans are found all over China, but this particular variety is mostly found in Yunnan and neighboring Guizhou. Their local nickname is 猫眼豆, and they are actually the immature version of a type of soybeans 大豆。When boiled with seasonings they become a terrific summer appetizer or snack. Hadn't really planned to make them, but when I went to the wet market for other things yesterday, these were unavoidable, plentiful, and cheap. This is another of those vegetables that's very seasonal, with short availability: the young pods are ready to be picked 5 or 6 weeks after the p
  10. We've been having hot days of early summer here in Kunming, interspersed with seasonal rains. The combination induces a case of the kitchen lazies, and I've turned to things that don't require much effort for my evening meals. Here's an example of something I've made (with variations) over and over using nothing but a rice cooker to supply the steam heat. Rice cookers generally come with a steamer basket that simplifies the process. Here's what mine looks like. It sits in the upper part of the rice cooker, allowing vegetables to steam while the rice below it is cooking to perfectio
  11. Tofu made in Shiping town 石屏县城 in south Yunnan is something special, famous throughout China's southwest. We get lots of it fresh here in Kunming, but I've also had the privilege of enjoying it at its source, in the green mountains of Honghe Prefecture 红河州,not far from ancient Jianshui 建水 and scenic Yuanyang 元阳。They say the difference is mainly in the water, and verbal battles are still fought about which deep well has the sweetest tofu-making nectar; but since it has been around over 400 years, it's not surprising that supernatural claims also exist, the main one having to do with a fiery dra
  12. Yunnan's glorious yangmei season 杨梅季节 has finally arrived. When I went to the market a couple days ago, sellers had baskets of them nearly everywhere I looked. They will fade out and be gone by about the end of the month, so I will enjoy them while I can. They currently go for 10 Yuan per 公斤, which is one whole kilogram. Last year at this time I was returning by train from Honghe Prefecture 红河州 in the southeast part of the province and it seemed that every person getting on during early stops had a small plastic mesh basket of them which they carefully protected, in ad
  13. When you read about Pu'er tea in the news or in general-purpose reference articles, you usually find discussion of its compressed forms, such as cakes, blocks and so on, with little or no mention of these teas in their loose-leaf form. So I thought it might be fun to remedy that oversight and introduce you to loose-leaf Pu'er; it has lots to recommend it. The two main kinds of Pu'er tea from a flavor standpoint are the fully-fermented ripe 熟茶 ones and the un-fermented raw ones 生茶。Both types can be found compressed into cakes 饼茶,bricks 砖茶,bowls/bird's nests 沱茶 as well as a few other
  14. It hit me like a bolt of lightning yesterday at the neighborhood wet market: Maybe I should try a different kind of eggs. Have recently been looking for a way to make more flavorful tea eggs, and maybe these small quail eggs are the answer. And I'd heard that quail eggs make great bite-sized tea eggs. Decided on the spot to try it out. Most of the egg vendors from whom I buy there not only sell free-range chicken eggs 土蛋 and an assortment of duck eggs, they also offer quail eggs plus smaller batches of exotics (pheasant eggs, guinea fowl eggs, bantam hen eggs and others.) The lady
  15. I realized a few minutes ago that we didn't have an index or guide to articles about tea and tea culture on Chinese Forums. Thought it might be helpful to pull them all together in one place as a reference, especially for people who have recently joined. Be glad to try my best to add to them as we go along; so if you think something is missing, or there is something else tea-related that you would like to see, please let me know. 1. General introduction to Chinese tea and tea tools -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/48538-chinese-tea-%E4%B8%AD%E5%9B%BD%E8%8C%B6/
  16. I've enjoyed this delicious side dish for several years, but have only recently begun making it at home. That might have been a big "waistline mistake" because it isn't low calorie and it is definitely addictive. But I'll show you how it's done nonetheless and let you wrestle with the weighty moral implications on your own dime. It's a strange fact of Yunnan life that we call potatoes 洋芋 ("foreign tuber") instead of 土豆 ("earth bean") like most of China. People with 3-wheeled bicycle carts 三轮车 drive slowly by my old housing complex two or three times a week shouting "买洋芋", emphasizi
  17. Now is the time to look for some of this year's crop if you like Chinese green 绿茶 and white tea 白茶。 The best of the best is picked right before Qingming Festival 清明节, which this year fell on the 4th of April, only two weeks ago. The slightly less expensive second picking is on the shelves and in the markets now. I bought a bag of real tasty Yunnan Biluochun 碧螺春 and a bag of Yunnan White Peony or Bai Mudan 白牡丹 from a bulk dealer nearby. She scooped me out about a hundred grams of each. These are teas that need to be enjoyed now; they won't be much good after about a year, so it's be
  18. This is another wildly popular Yunnan favorite that has gradually migrated to other parts of China. Yunnan cuisine has a knack for using unlikely ingredients in imaginative ways which sets it apart from many other better known food styles. Yunnan cooks embrace boldly fragrant herbs, such as fennel and mint, and they marry them to our famous hot peppers without batting an eye. Today we will see how that works with Grandma's Fennel Potatoes 茴香老奶洋芋。The potato 土豆 is called "foreign tuber" 洋芋 here for reasons that go back to the days when Yunnan was a remote backwater province, populate
  19. You see tea eggs 茶叶蛋 everywhere you turn during 春节 Spring Festival, but you also find them a lot during ordinary times 平时。Yunnan tends to put its distinctive stamp on many food that are popular all over China. So it should come as no surprise that what I'm going to show you today is our regional variation on this popular snack food item. You can either use chicken eggs 鸡蛋 or quail eggs 鹌鹑蛋, and you will encounter both when out and about, even though the chicken eggs are more common. One frequently sees a big pan of them simmering away near the
  20. This bold-flavored air-cured beef 牛肉干巴 originated with Yunnan's Muslim 回族 population hundreds and hundreds of years ago, but soon took the entire province by storm. Yunnan's Han 汉族 population prides itself on making succulent salt-cured huotui ham 火腿, and I've told you about that in an earlier post. These two meats are Yunnan's pride and joy, with our special Yiliang roast duck 宜良烤鸭 being a definite contender as well. The best of Yunnan's 牛肉干巴 comes from steep, rocky Zhaotong Prefecture 昭通州, up in the northeast of the province. This is a poor area, where once there was mining unti
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