Yunnanese food splits broadly into three cooking styles. In the north, the cold, pastoral lifestyle produces dried meats and – very unusually for China – dairy products, fused with a Muslim cuisine, a vestige of the thirteenth-century Mongolian invasion. Typical dishes include wind-cured ham (火腿, huŏtuĭ), sweetened, steamed and served with slices of bread; dried cheese or yoghurt wafers (乳扇, rŭshān or 乳饼, rŭbǐng); the local version of crisp-skinned duck (烧鸭, shāoyā), flavoured with Sichuan peppercorns – you’ll see drum-shaped duck ovens outside many restaurants – and a tasty fish claypot (沙锅鱼, shāguō yú).

Eastern Yunnan produces the most recognizably “Chinese” food. From here comes chicken flavoured with medicinal herbs and stewed inside a specially shaped earthenware steamer (气锅鸡, qìguōjī), and perhaps the province’s most celebrated dish, crossing-the-bridge noodles (过桥米线, guòqiáo mǐxiàn), a sort of individualized hotpot eaten as a cheap snack; you pay by the size of the bowl. The curious name comes from a tale of a Qing scholar who retired every day to a lakeside pavilion to compose poetry. His wife, an understanding soul, used to cook him lunch, but the food always cooled as she carried it from their home over the bridge to where he studied – until she hit on the idea of keeping the heat in with a layer of oil on top of his soup.

Not surprisingly, Yunnan’s south is strongly influenced by Burmese, Lao and Thai cooking methods, particularly in the use of such un-Chinese ingredients as lime juice, coconut, palm sugar, cloves and turmeric. Here you’ll find a vast range of soups and stews, roughly recognizable as curries, displayed in aluminium pots outside fast-turnover restaurants, and oddities such as purple rice-flour pancakes sold at street markets. The south is also famous in China for producing good coffee and red pu’er, Yunnan’s best tea.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

China features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Video: 10 Taiwanese street foods you need to try

Video: 10 Taiwanese street foods you need to try

Street food in Taiwan has a charm that restaurants just can't match. There's a distinct pleasure to be found in wandering through the labyrinthine stalls glo…

03 Aug 2017 • Colt St. George videocam Video
7 Chinese street foods you need to try

7 Chinese street foods you need to try

Thanks to China’s sheer enormity, travelling through the country is as much a tastebud odyssey as it is a history lesson. And eating your way around the stre…

27 Jul 2017 • Aimee White insert_drive_file Article
An expert's guide: the best area to stay in Hong Kong

An expert's guide: the best area to stay in Hong Kong

Hong Kong floats between old China and the west; its futuristic harbour has become one of Asia's most famous views but you'll also find pockets of traditiona…

28 Feb 2017 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month