This time of the year is perfect for savoring Yunnan cuisine, known for its mushroom dishes as well as its fusion of several Chinese tastes. It’s not surprising as the province is located in China’s southwest where the country’s Han Chinese culture meets with the tropical flavors of Southeastern Asian countries like Vietnam, Laos, and Burma.
Yunnan’s delicacy gets its hot and spicy flavor from neighboring Sichuan province, while utilizing ingredients and seasoning from southeastern Chinese provinces like Zhejiang and Guangdong.
Surely Yunnan food is part of my ever-growing bucket list in China. I heard that the province has an adorable climate and awesome natural scenery — and yes, those will be the subjects of a future Bucket List article when I visit the provincial capital Kunming and neighboring cities soon! But for now, let me share my Yunnan experience in Beijing, courtesy of the Yunnan Food Festival.
I went to JW Kitchen at JW Marriott Hotel Beijing Central in Xuanwumen last weekend and splurged on this Chinese cuisine. And it didn’t disappoint! I tried the must-eat first.
Fried Diqing top-notch matsutake mushroom
I’m a fan of mushrooms and this one didn’t disappoint. Matsutake is a rare and pricey mushroom and is called “the King of Fungus” for its health benefits. I liked how the grilled taste jived with the soft-to-crunchy texture of matsutake mushroom.
“Crossing the Bridge” Noodles (Guoqiao mixian)
Coming from a tropical country where it always rains, I’m accustomed to sipping chicken noodle soups and (chocolate) porridge. Hence I developed a certain liking to tasty soups – which I don’t usually find in many restaurants in Beijing. The one served to me at the festival was just incredible as it mixed the flavors of chicken broth and hot spices, while the noodle didn’t slip from my fork.
Of course, being the history geek I am, I wondered why this dish is called “Crossing the Bridge.” The cooks I asked at the festival explained the dish is named after a popular story in Yunnan, about a scholar and his wife.
The folk tale tells us that the scholar had been studying on an island in the province, isolating himself as he prepared for his imperial examinations. His wife used to cross a wooden bridge to bring him hot noodle soup, but the dish always arrived cold. Later in the story, she found out that putting a layer of vegetable oil on top of the noodle soup would keep it warm. Well, it just so happens that because of this hot soup, the scholar passed his exams. How lovely!
Grilled Changdu Pork and Hotplate Shiping Beancurd
I arrived a bit late at the festival so I didn’t have the chance to taste the Grilled Changdu Pork (top left in the picture above). But I heard it was the most popular dish as it got stripped within minutes of serving. What JW Kitchen did to their version of Grilled Changdu Pork was they, well, grilled it until the skin turned a shiny red. They used a special spice that made the meat just right without an abundant amount of grease. This dish reminds me of the Philippines’ roast pig called lechon, in which a special soy sauce is mixed with spices and coated on the pig skin to make it shiny and crispy, and of course tasty.
Meanwhile, Shiping bean curd, according to JW Kitchen, has a history four centuries old. In its namesake county, the dish is given as a present to close friends, family, and honorable guests. The outer layer of Shiping bean curd is surprisingly crispy as I thought it would be quite soft, and the dressings further enhance its flavor.
Other Yunnan flavors
Luckily my tummy had enough room for other treats. The Pineapple (sticky) Rice dish is just lovely as I really love this fruit. I actually went back a couple of times because the combination of the not-so-sticky rice and the medium-sweet-but-not-sour pineapple is perfect to balance the saltiness and spicy tastes of the other dishes on the table.
At the festival, families can also enjoy international dishes infused with Yunnan flavors. JW Kitchen says everything served at the Yunnan Food Festival is freshly-made, including dressings, with no processed ingredients. What’s more, the whole thing is suitable for families who want to experience the flavors of Yunnan without leaving Beijing.
Yunnan Food Festival at JW Kitchen
When: Until August 6, 2017
Where: JW Marriott Hotel Beijing Central, No.18 Xuanwumenwai Street Xicheng District, 北京市西城区宣武门外大街18号
Price (dinner): RMB 468 per person (Sunday to Thursday); RMB 498 per person (Friday to Saturday)
Contact: For reservations, call 6391 6361 or visit jwmarriottbeijingcentral.com
How to get there?
By subway: Take Line 2 or 4 and get off at Xuanwumen station exit G. Walk 600 meters (about 9 minutes) straight ahead and you will see JW Marriott on your right.
By Didi/ride-share app: Type in 助理市场传讯总监 (Běijīng yuè cái JW wànháo jiǔdiàn)
By bus: Take Bus Line 83, 102, 105, 109, Night bus 10 (outer), or Night bus 4 and alight at Jiaochangkou 较场口 station. JW Marriott can be easily seen at the station (both northbound or southbound)
Photos: courtesy of JW Marriott Hotel Beijing Central