Yunnan province: Kunming and Jianshui
Went to 2 good restaurants in Kunming this summer:
Yi pin zhen canguan (restaurant) is on Jiang Bin Xi Lu, a street just beside the river just off Renmin Lu. Known in English as Tasty Restaurant-- and it was! Fairly informal, cheap. Standouts included a 'cake' of mashed potatoes with chilis and dill, fried pumpkin, sticky rice with smoky Yunnan ham, and unforgettable blistered tiger peppers: hot and enveloping. Spicy green beens also good, and we had a drink made with apple vinegar that was very refreshing.
the 1915 Restaurant (to comemorate a revolutionary act in that year) is fancier, also has good food though I don't have details. On the west side of downtown.
Jianshui (pronounced "Jienshway") is a 3 hour bus ride south of Kunming. Nice town, with a lovely Confucius garden, and a spectacular 'swallows' cave (yan4 zi3 dong4)a little bit outside. We had a great 'standard meal' in the Old Town Cafe on Hanlin Lu or Hanlin Jie for 12 yuan: Eggplant in the Style of Fish-- much ginger-- Ants Climb A Tree-- spicy rice noodles with ground pork--, ground rice cakes with Chinese sausage, Mapo Dofu, sweetened lime juice. This cafe, with an English language menu, is on the same street as the peaceful Zhu's Garden, where we managed to stay. Do not eat in the restaurant attached to Zhu's Garden: a very bureaucratic restaurant with poor food. Feel free to email me if you are going to Jianshui or the Lijiang area, at email@example.com.
Just found the standout dish at 1915 Restaurant (btw the place has '1915' written very large in red on the front).
It is fen3 zheng1 pai2 gu3 , inadequately translated as steamed ribs with rice. The rice is somehow caramelized, then ground up and mixed with garlic and braised ribs and cooked almost to a mush. It's rich and flavorful, almost as if someone from Yunnan started cooking in Louisiana. worth going to the restaurant just for this.