Special Six: Tastes of Lijiang

When I revisited the UNESCO Heritage site, the old town of Lijiang in Yunnan province of China in 2013 with Yuan, we tried out a lot of the local Naxi cuisine. Someone once told me that for every person, one of their senses tend to dominate more than the others when it comes to memories. So much so that for some, smells or tastes can unlock an entire treasure trove of memories. While I do feel that a particular sense tends to dominate in a particular context, I don’t feel that that same sense is dominant across all travel memories. I feel that it could vary. Some of my travel memories are connected to sounds or music that I was listening to during that travel and listening to that particular song(s) back at home can bring back the entire details of that particular travel memory – the place, the weather, the people, the conversations etc. This trip to Lijiang was connected with the tastes and flavours of Lijiang cuisine and perhaps the sense of taste was heightened because I could not participate in the conversations in Mandarin around me.

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So, I am sharing the six special tastes that made up this visit.

  1. Street food night market

The evening Yuan and I arrived in the old town of Lijiang, we checked into our guesthouse and made our way to the night street food market to try out local delicacies. The street was packed with people and the range of local snacks on display was something to behold. I was happy that my friend was not only Chinese but knew the region well enough to recommend local specialty food. This is where I had my first taste of Er Kuai, which is a compressed rice cake, and loved it.

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2. Breakfasting on Lijiang baba

When Yuan returned to the guesthouse from her 10 Km morning run on our first day, she brought these  local pancakes for breakfast. They are called Lijiang baba and are a pan fried pancake. There are varieties of these pancakes but the one I tried was with eggs and spring onions. I loved them so much that I went to Naxi Snacks, the shop where they made these, each day for breakfast.

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3. A bowl of fresh rice noodles in chicken broth

Yuan insisted we try out the fresh Yunnanese rice noodles in chicken broth which is a local specialty and which she said could not be found elsewhere in the country. I think Yuan would have been happy to have had this for all her meals during our time there. I had to put a lot of the coriander, spring onions and chopped chilli in my bowl to make it more flavourful for my palate.

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4. A Naxi feast

A friend of Yuan’s, Anna, whose family we would be staying with during the next leg of our travel, invited us over to a dinner party with some of her friends. They treated us to a Naxi feast.

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5. Steam pot Chicken

When we returned to Lijiang from our stay with Anna’s family, we went out for a farewell dinner with Anna. We decided to order the steam pot chicken, another specialty of the region.

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6. Yunnanese veggies

For our last meal in the city, Yuan and I decided to try out more of the vegetarian dishes at Alily, a cafe that we had walked past often and wanted to try out. The spiced lotus root was a great balance to the spice-less tofu and greens soup.

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Have you tried out Yunnanese cuisine? What has been some of your favourites or what would you like to try out?

[I am linking this post to Wanderful Wednesday and Faraway Files #3]
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32 thoughts on “Special Six: Tastes of Lijiang

    • I am sure you would love travelling around China. I am fascinated by the Yunnan province not only because of its amazing scenery and mountains, delicious food but it is also home to several minority ethnic groups in China thus providing an intriguing cultural diversity.

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  1. It’s always so great to travel with someone who knows what they’re doing when it comes to food! It’s always one of the most important components of my travel- taste the local cuisine! Looks like you got to try some awesome dishes too! Those egg pancakes look to die for 😀

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    • Yes, it is always wonderful to have a friend who knows the region you are visiting and can recommend local specialities! The first time I visited Yunnan province, I ended up eating mostly non-local food in touristy restaurants simply because they were the places where the menu could be found in English. So, I was happy that on this trip that my Chinese friend was there to recommend local specialty food.

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  2. How lucky you were to travel around with a Chinese friend – it must have made the trip so much more meaningful and special. I love the look of all that delicious food – I really enjoy trying the local food when I’m travelling and my senses are absolutely connected to my memories of travel: the sights, the sounds, the smells – all of it! Thanks so much for linking up with #FarawayFiles

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    • While all your senses are connected to your memories of travel, do you feel that there is a particular sense that dominates over the others or are they equally strong? My friend’s hypothesis was that for each person, one of their senses tends to dominate when it comes to memories. I don’t quite agree with that though in this particular travel, my sense of taste clearly was dominant and recalling the flavour of a particular food brings back the entire place, colours, conversations that took place while eating that food.

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  3. That’s a really interesting idea about memories and your senses. I’m not sure I have a specific sense either and I think it will change depending on the destination. For instance, I don’t recall much exciting in the way of cuisine in Iceland so taste definitely wouldn’t work for me there.
    Reading this post, I am starting to feel hungry so my senses have been aroused by our words and pictures.
    #farawayfiles

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    • It is indeed an interesting concept. One of my lecturers actually took this idea a step ahead in incorporating music as a pedagogical tool. He would embed pieces of music during his lecture presentations. He felt it was a great tool to remember the lecture content if we associated the key points with the music he had played. The only drawback I felt in this logic was that the music had to be known to all the students or at least played long enough to make an impact on the listener. Anyway, I find this a fascinating idea.

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  4. Amazing Ahila! This is exactly the type of experience I seek out in new countries. I love the philosophy and flavours of Chinese cooking. Everything is deliberate and precise to achieve the perfect balance and so different from what passes as chinese food in western countries. Thanks so much for making me hungry on #FarawayFiles Ahila

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  5. What a delicious post! I love trying the local specialties and this has opened my palate wanderlust – I’m hungry and want to try all of that! Thanks for sharing and tempting us at #FarawayFiles – cheers from Croatia, where I will never forget the Black Risotto and octopus salad! Erin

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