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Day 87: Lijiang to Kunming

Michael Palin - HimalayaWe lunch at a restaurant that serves Kunming's speciality, Across the Bridge Noodles. The story behind the name is both romantic and utilitarian. A scholar seeking peace and quiet retires to a cottage on an island. His wife brings him his food, but the bridge is so long it's cold by the time she gets across. She discovers one day that by pouring a layer of oil on top of the broth it would stay hot. So she poured on the oil, took the broth over the bridge, put in the various cuts of meat when she got there and a new dish was born. (I think the story says a lot about the importance of food to the Chinese. In England he'd have been lucky to get a sandwich.)

So we have set in front of us a bowl of very hot soup flavoured with chicken stock, duck and spare ribs and arrayed round it, with no regard for the size of the table, a multitude of side dishes including raw chicken and Yunnan ham, liver, fish, pork, spinach, onions and all sorts of other vegetables as well as chilli pepper to add to the fun.

It's a huge but quite delicate meal, with impeccably fresh ingredients.

Kunming is not only a floral showplace, still basking in the glow of having hosted Expo '99 Flower and Plant Festival, but the capital of a province with more ethnic minorities than any other. Gardens and ethnic diversity meet in a landscaped, 90-hectare site on the shores of Lake Dian, south of the city. Called the Yunnan Nationalities Villages, in essence it's an ethnic minorities theme park.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 87: Lijiang to Kunming
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Kunming
  • Book page no: 203

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