Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy Lunar New Year! 春节快乐!

In line with today’s Lunar New Year, I’d like to share a book find.

Written by Annabel Jackson and Linda Chia and published in 2014 by Blacksmith Books, The Yunnan Cookbook: Recipes from China’s Land of Ethnic Diversity is a collaboration between Ms. Chia who wanted a book that featured the cooking of China’s ethnic minorities and Ms. Jackson who was more than willing to help in writing the book.

Here are some information about the authors:

Journalist Annabel Jackson is the author of 11 books including Vietnam on a Plate. She lives in Brighton, England. Ms. Jackson is a visiting lecturer, School of Sport & Service Management, University of Brighton, and Advanced Ambassador of the Academy of Wines of Portugal. She just finished a MA in Anthropology of Food. Her dissertation was on the impact of tourism on food delivery in Yunnan.

Australian chef Linda Chia works on organic agricultural projects in Yunnan and lives in Beijing, China.

Anyway, curiosity motivated me to check out this book. I’m not familiar with Yunnan cuisine at all. What I know of Chinese food are Cantonese and Mandarin, definitely nothing from the Yunnan region. Honestly, I don’t even know where the Yunnan region was until I read the book.

Written for both the novice and the seasoned cook, the cookbook is well-organized and easy to follow. There is a Glossary that listed alternative names of ingredients (for example, Sichuan peppercorn = Chinese prickly ash / hua jiao). There are beautiful full color photos throughout the book, although not all the recipes have photos.

The chapters were different. There were the usual chapters – Appetisers (yes, that’s how it was spelled), Salads, Soups, Vegetables, Vegan, Meat and Poultry, Fish and Seafood, Rice and Noodles, Desserts, Snacks and Street Food. There were unusual chapters that were ingredient-specific – Preserves, Eggs, Mushrooms, Yunnan Ham and Cheese. Despite having a chapter on Appetisers, the book pointed out that the concept of appetisers in Yunnan meals isn’t really clear-cut. What’s more, eggs and mushrooms are so popular in Yunnan cuisine, these merited their own chapters.

Interspersed between chapters and recipes are stories and anecdotes on Yunnan life with accompanying photographs. There are the stories of Chef Tony of Angsana Fuxian Lake resort, and the city of Yiliang’s annual Flower Festival that happens in June. There is the interview with a restaurant owner in Jinghong that ends up touching on the history of the villages. There is even information on wine production in Mi Le.

I bookmarked seven recipes to try. The first recipe I tested was the Fried Tomato with Egg.

yunnan-01

With just five ingredients (eggs, tomatoes, salt, pepper and oil), this was a very simple dish with clear cooking instructions, so it was really hard to mess it up. This is supposed to be a traditional village dish. According to the book, eggs in Yunnan come from chicken fed on corn and rice. For this dish, I used organic eggs.

Anyway, here are other things that I learned about the region and its cuisine:

  • “Yunnan” means “South of the Clouds”. The Yunnan region borders Tibet, Sichuan, Burma, Vietnam and Laos.
  • “51 of the 55 minorities that are found in China can be found in the Yunnan province and the varieties of food are as diverse as its people.”
  • Yak and goat are generally eaten in the northern parts of Yunnan, while pork reigns supreme in the south.
  • Ever heard of “toasted” duck? It’s something you can only find in Yunnan. No, it’s not Peking Duck.
  • Fish is very rare in Yunnan cuisine because the province is land-locked.
  • They have a tradition of making and eating cheese.

By the end of the book, I’m curious about trying Yunnan ham, their famous product. However, I’m not sure where I can buy that here in the U.S.

I also looked up Yunnan restaurants in the U.S. and learned from this Serious Eats post “What Is Authentic Yunnan Food? A Quick Guide from Los Angeles” that “Los Angeles has the most Yunnan restaurants in the entire United States”. TimeOut New York’s post “New Yunnan restaurants” mentioned two restaurants – Yunnan Kitchen and Lotus Blue Restaurant Bar. Now we know where to go.

The Yunnan Cookbook: Recipes from China’s land of ethnic diversity
Annabel Jackson and Linda Chia
List $26.95
Hard cover 200 pages
ISBN-10: 9881613973 ISBN-13: 9789881613974
Publisher: Blacksmith Books
Official Publication Date November 7, 2014
For more information, visit www.Blacksmithbooks.com

Disclaimer: A representative for Blacksmith Books sent me a free copy of the book in exchange for writing a review on the blog. All opinions are my own.

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