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What to eat

Food & Drink / What to eat

Taste of Yunnan: staple foods

By Teng Mu

August 17

Rice like you’ve never seen it before.

Rice like you’ve never seen it before.

Yunnan’s staples are not something you’ll find in your everyday office. From rainbow rice to pineapple bowls, there’s no better way to experience the land of flowers than sitting at a local table.

1. Dyed Rice

Dyed rice [Image Credit: xinhuanet.com]
Dyed rice [Image Credit: xinhuanet.com]
Yunnanese people extract edible pigments from wild plants to dye sticky rice different colors. For example, red orchid is used for red, purple orchid for purple, day lily for yellow and maple for black.

2. Baba

Modern baba [Image Credit:xinhuanet.com]
Modern baba [Image Credit:xinhuanet.com]
Most people don’t actually eat their fathers in Yunnan. Baba are round cakes made from different ingredients, including wheat, buckwheat, mashed potatoes, rice and corn. Regional cooking differences have given rise to baked baba in Kunming (昆明), steamed baba in Xishuangbanna (西双版纳) and fried baba in
Tengchong (腾冲).

3. Rice Cakes

Guandu rice cakes [Image Credit: xinhuanet.com]
Guandu rice cakes [Image Credit: xinhuanet.com]
Rice cakes are perhaps the famous Yunnan staple. Unlike regular South China rice cakes, they are made of regular rather than sticky rice. Rice cakes in Yunnan are cubed, shredded or sliced, then fried, steamed or baked to make a whole list of possible variations. Some famous Yunnan rice cake dishes include dajiujia (大救驾), or fried rice cakes, in Kunming and steamed shredded rice cakes in Qujing.

4. Steamed Purple Rice in Pineapple

Steamed purple rice in pineapple [Image Credit: yn.gov.cn]
Steamed purple rice in pineapple [Image Credit: yn.gov.cn]
Steamed purple rice in pineapple is a popular specialty created by the Dai people.  Half-cooked purple rice is put into a pineapple and steamed until fully cooked, which infuses the rice with a sweet and sour taste.

5. Steamed Sticky Rice in Bamboo Shoot

Steamed sticky rice in bamboo shoot [Image Credit: xinhuanet.com]
Steamed sticky rice in bamboo shoot [Image Credit: xinhuanet.com]
The bamboo shoot cooking method is, besides the Water Splashing Festival, the most well-known symbol of the Dai ethnic group. Using a specific species of young bamboo to steam rice, it gives this age-old staple crop a unique bamboo flavor.

6. Rice Noodles

Cold rice noodles with sauce [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Sun Jihu]
Cold rice noodles with sauce [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Sun Jihu]
Rice noodles are Yunnan’s most widely-known staple food, and there are dozens of varieties. Just to name a few: cold rice noodles with sauce and shredded chicken; red rice noodles; rice noodle casserole; and rice noodles with tofu pudding.

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