Thursday 27 July 2017


From sharing impromptu hot pots under the gaze of blushing waitresses with two students we met on the train, to biting into warm, soft steamed buns stuffed with meat and flavour whilst getting giggled at by the girls behind the counter. We took in the city with all of its flavour and buzz and discovered a depth of taste infused with a criss-cross of ethnicities and traditions all injected with contemporary twists.

The Spring City's streets are rammed with interesting eateries that dish up delicious dinners late into the night. We ate our way through the best places in Kunming we could find to fill a hole in our hungry traveller stomachs.

๐Ÿด Northwest Style Barbecue, Kunming Branch ่ฅฟๅŒ—้ฃŽๆƒ…็ƒง็ƒค ๆ˜†ๆ˜Ž
Oh what an introduction to what we now know to be such a classic Chinese way of eating: ็ซ้”… huo guo. Known in English as hot pot, it's a metal pot of filled with a broth various spices and herbs, split down the middle into two flavours: one herbal and cooling, the one other spicy and red. The guys we were with told us to choose the stuff we wanted to cook in the hot pot from a buffet of small dishes. We chose plates of small quail's eggs, lotus root, meat balls and tofu. The boys picked up a lot more.

We slid the selections into the broth and spent time chatting and drinking and until the food was cooked, soft and tender. Each item was rich with the flavours of the stock. It was a fun way to eat, excitedly selecting small dishes from a long table laden with various selections of nibbles ready to cook. There were even small buns and cakes for pudding too.

Read more about our meal and the fun we had with the guys here!

๐Ÿด Su Ji Xiang, Vegetarian Buffet

Buffets are just such good value in China. The vegetarian kind are especially good as you don't have to navigate strange off-cuts of unknown meat and are left to effortlessly explore Chinese cuisine. This place cost 20 yuan (£2.30) and we got to eat a wide array of Yunnanese dishes that were cooked using fresh ingredients. Su Ji Xiang was busy with locals eating a mid-week dinner with families and friends on a rainy evening.

๐Ÿด It's Cafe
Kunming has a growing trendy independent cafe scene, where young people chill out. It's Cafe was a wonderful place to find, its soft focus on image and a style leaning towards a Chinese imprint of a laid-back coffee house. The decor was casually considered with delicate detail, such as the stylishly shaped mugs that embodied the equally contemporary atmosphere.

We hung out, wrote and planned our travels at It's Cafe. The people who work there were friendly and the atmosphere was easy and chilled, penetrated only by the beat of Slim Shady LP being played over the speakers. A guy weighed out coffee and slipped it into bags to sell to disdaining customers. A serene pocket in the middle of the city, we wish It's Cafe could be our local cafe.

๐Ÿด Vegetarian Hot Pot
What a find, what a deal! For 25 yuan (£2.80) you can have yourself an all-you-can-eat vegetarian hot pot. We sat and pondered what to do as the coloured plastic plates of potatoes and tofu passed us by on the what we seem to call a sushi go round, but with no sushi. The lady who was serving us kindly explained as best as she could to two westerners, with zero mandarin, that one side of the pot was hot – she mined cooling down her mouth her hands – and the other was cool; she mimed a swoosh of air coming out of her mouth. We nodded, thanked her and then looked around hopelessly for a hint of what to do from our fellow diners.

Our hot pot was filled with a kettle and we simply took passing plates from the conveyor belt and popped 'em into our hot pot. And then we waited while they cooked. We sat close together in small seats and chatted through the steam of the pot whilst eating our moneys worth and more.

๐Ÿด #51 Cafe
With a dark and stylish interior this cafe felt a little more grown up than the whimsical and cute It's Cafe. We were served coffee in delicate china, and poured it ourselves from a jug. It's not the way we are usually served coffee, but it was somewhat satisfying to pour it. Felt real sophisticated like. The coffee was fairly strong and it was a good place to hide during a downpour.

๐Ÿด Bao
Bao (ๅŒ…) is the best. Warm and soft, snacking on bao in China saved us from being dangerously hungry, since usually steamed buns are sold super cheaply and are quite easy to find. The spicy tofu filling in these ones were some of the best we had from street side stalls from all of the places we ate on our trip in China. For about 20p a bun we couldn't help ourselves from picking up a snack every time we sauntered past, which was every day. The girls serving us were really sweet—if a little embarrassed to have their picture taken!

๐Ÿด Bao
A good bao place near to our hotel, we had some late night snacks from this place. There aren't any English signs so it is helpful to learn the Chinese characters for basic fillings for steamed bun. Minced pork is the classic filling but we also love the spicy tofu.

๐Ÿด Salvador's

We needed some space to plan our trip onward to Vietnam and just a little time out from the city and also... we really fancied some home comforts. After seeing the menu online we hot-footed it down to Salvador's which is tucked neatly into Culture Alley in the area surrounding Yunnan University. The menu is big and very tempting—we greedily tucked into their falafel plate and spent the rest of the afternoon sipping on a large pot french press coffee.

Buzzy with a steady stream of Western immigrants propping up the bar and locals getting a fix of the famous homemade ice cream, Salvador's is not Chinese but the Western owners have a focus on supporting and enriching the lives of their staff and the wider local community through various projects—teaching their staff English, for example. This place seems like an ever-evolving idea that is working towards something greater than itself. Cute upstairs area with tiny chairs and low tables.

๐Ÿด Vegetarian Life Style Buffet ๆจจ่กŒ่ฎฐ ็พŽๅ‘ณ็ด ้ฃŸ
Another vegetarian buffet, we arrived at this one a little later than we should have done. Usually these buffet places are all finished and done by 8pm so it's best to arrive around 6pm. Mock meats and vegetables are standard along with sweet Chinese biscuits and breads, a lot of watermelon and other fruits too.

This place was really local, not much English spoken at all but the people ran it pointed us in the right direction and we managed to let them know we were there for the buffet (20 yuan per person) and not the hot pot which was on offer too. A clean and modern place with interesting items on display, like old radios and posters of influential historical figures such as Einstein alongside some quotes.

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