Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, is one of the most beautiful regions of China. The province of Yunnan is located in Southwest China with Guang-Dong province to the east. With its vast landscape of mountains and lakes, a region with over 2 dozen minority ethnic groups, savory cuisine and friendly people, I truly recommend a visit. Upon arriving to the Kunming airport, our family friend introduced us warmly into the Yunnan culture through the signature dish, Cross-the-bridge noodle soup. Therefore, I’ll start the post with what to eat, and then follow it with things to do in Kunming.
- Taste the Culinary Specialties of Yunnan
- Try the 40+ variety of Mushrooms
- Eat your way down 3 blocks of Mushroom Street
- “Across the Bridge Noodles”
- Yunnan Nationalities Village
- Yunnan Nationality Museum
- Stone Forest
- Explore it’s smaller neighboring towns:
- Meet the friendly faces of Kunming
What to Eat in Kunming
Kunming’s culinary specialties include a wide variety of mushrooms, spices and noodle soup. Three of my favorite food items.
Eat Your Way down Mushroom Street
Mushrooms and Tree Fungus are especially popular throughout Yunnan. For about 3 blocks straight, dozens of restaurants serve their signature mushroom dishes. On record, there are over 40 mushroom varieties that are grown. The restaurant we went to served us 9 different kinds of mushrooms for dinner. Though eating that many mushrooms sound pretty overwhelming, I never once got sick tasting them all. I pretty much began looking forward to each meal to taste more of the varieties of mushrooms!
Mushrooms range from its age, color, where it was grown, the climate, the wild mushrooms. They claim that none are grown in factories. The mushrooms are also prepared and cooked differently. Each chef with their own specialty, every family tradition different. We tried them raw and dipped in hot sauce. Some other mushrooms were deep-fried, some in the soup and others mixed with vegetables or meat. I absolutely love the food in Kunming and throughout Yunnan. It’s the perfect amount of savory, spicy and salty without too many sweets. And a wide variety of meats.
“Cross the Bridge Noodle Soup”
“Cross the Bridge Noodle Soup” or in mandarin, “Gùo chiaú mî shièn” is made similar to Pho. With Kunming being in the south of China, it borders Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam. Therefore, many noodle soup and other recipes display resemblance. This noodle soup is served to you as a big bowl of soup (brewed from pork & beef bones for many hours). On the side is rice noodles, raw meat (a mix of lamb, beef, chicken, pork), vegetables, and then you drop it all in to cook. We asked for very spicy which is not an issue here. Yunnan, Szechuan and Hunan province are known to serve some of the spiciest dishes throughout China.
Street Food in Kunming: Lamb Skewers
With Kunming’s close proximity to west China, there are many minority Muslim groups who also live here. With its influence from neighboring countries of Pakistan and India, their spices and outer appearance oftentimes resemble theirs more than the traditional Han Chinese look. Men in Muslim traditional outfits sell BBQ skewers of meat marinated in Cumin seeds and chili pepper. My favorite being the Lamb Skewers which I almost ALWAYS buy a few of. And eat too many of.
THINGS TO DO IN KUNMING:
Yunnan Nationalities Village
The food in Kunming is so flavorful that I could just eat all day. But for other things to do in Kunming (besides stuffing your face), here are a few other suggestions:
Yunnan Nationality Village or “Yunnan Ethnic Village” is a theme park along Dian Chi Lake. All 26 ethnic minority groups of Yunnan are introduced in different sections, performing their traditional dances & arts. These are interactive performances, as they invite guests to dance with them, learn about their rituals and the cultural diversity of China. I also recommend visiting the temples throughout the park (mostly Buddhist). This reminded me of the Polynesian culture show in Hawaii. Typically, I’d find this type of tourist attraction tacky, but I actually found it entertaining. It was a mini-Disneyland of sorts, transporting us to a different exotic world within minutes (like the Small World ride).
Stone Forest 石林
Stone Forest 石林 “Shí-lín”, is the most popular national park in Yunnan province, a UNESCO World Heritage site. A mild trek takes you through a forest filled with natural stones that have existed for thousands of years. I would say that about an hour is enough, especially with the massive amounts of tourists.
Meet the Friendly People of Yunnan 昆明人
After dinner one evening, we met the world-famous Yang-Li-Ping. Born in China, she is a global celebrity dancer, whose signature dance is the Peacock dance. She magically transforms her body and movements into resemblances of a bird. Her shows are booked across the world wherever she visits.