When I think of Kunming, the first thing that comes to my mind is the food! Yes, the fall weather is glorious in Kunming – brilliant blue skies, golden aspen trees, piles of pumpkins, fresh mountain air. Yes, the people of Kunming are special – more open, calm and welcoming than in many parts of China. I really enjoyed both the usual and unusual experiences of Kunming, but on the top of my mind and the tip of my tongue is the indelible memory of incredible edibles – snacks, soups, noodles, dumplings shared with new friends in unforgettable settings.
One such setting was just the noodle shop down the street from my hotel. I started every day with a bowl of noodle soup and it kept me going for hours! It’s called “me ahhh” and it is never exactly the same twice. Especially easy for me to order and to devour. It is my fall-back comfort food everywhere in China.
For one evening, I had booked the Half-day Kunming Street Food Tour. In the late afternoon, my lovely guide Leah walked me around the food stalls in the city center near the main mosque, among the towers and new hotels. So you know the food was Muslim-style, very familiar to me from living in the Middle East, and very delicious. I tried everything!
On the same tour, we walked across the city center square to the most famous noodle shop in Kunming for Crossing the Bridge Noodle Soup, then toasted the evening with plum wine. I was so full, I could barely walk!
Next, there was a traditional lunch on my day trip to Shilin – the Stone Forest. After working up an appetite hiking the stone trails, we stopped at a celebrated restaurant promoting Kunming cuisine and wine. My super Guide Vivien ordered the special fried goat cheese and tongue-numbing spiced pumpkin mix, and we ate while being boisterously serenaded. It was a place I couldn’t stop taking photos of both the food and the decor.
Another evening, I shared a meal with my enthusiastic guide Fang between a walk in Green Lake Park and a stellar cultural performance. She said she knew of an unusual restaurant called Tai Lai. I was really surprised to find that the menu was essentially Thai dishes, and then it hit me: Kunming is not far from Thailand. Long before the borders separated the people, the cultures of southern China and northern Thailand were probably the same. So dinner was lemongrass and coconut green curry Chinese food.
Another day, a new friend treated me to his favorite lunch. On a lovely day of rambling around the city, we went into a super modern shopping mall to find his favorite food. This is where he admitted he was originally from Shanghai, and we’d be having Shanghai food – some of my favorite too! Dumplings of all sorts, followed by tea with another new friend in her special tea house.
And if there was ever a chance to cook, I found an enticing market across the street from my hotel. I brought home some of the Green Chili from Yunnan that makes your tongue numb and tingly, but I haven’t had the nerve to try it out on my family.
If, perchance, I didn’t turn right for the noodle soup shop, to the left, next door, was a donkey hotpot. When I stay at this hotel next time, just maybe I will try it out.