Great Shui Dai Restaurant in Southern Yunnan Province
Spring Papaya Dai Restaurant(春木瓜傣味餐厅）0691-6678490 is my favorite all around restaurant in Jinhong, capitol of Xishuangbanna region in the very southern most part of Yunnan Province. I have been going there for over 6 years, and the food is mostly just as good now as the first time I went--in part because the three main cooks remain the same and the menu really never changes except for some price hikes!
The Dai ethnic group is closely related to people from Thailand- in language, articheture, clothing and food. The chinese character for the Dai(傣) is the same as the character for Thai(泰) with the addition of what is called a side man.
The restaurant has many great and some very weird dishes(bee larve, bamboo maggots,etc) , but beware as they liberally employ red thai bird chilies to spice things up. That said, definately get:
the stir-fried corn(傣家炒包谷) which is a deceptively simple yet amazing dish bursting with corn goodness---8RMB
lemongrass wrapped BBQ fish(香茅草烤鱼) unfortunately this was better before, as they now installed racks above their grill for resting things a bit too long for optimal flavor and texture, which is why I gave them 4 stars instead of 5---30RMB
Beef jerky spicy sour soup with mint(傣家柠檬春干巴）thin threads of smoked beef jerky in a spicy tomato lime soup with mint being the standout of the 5 added herbs---25RMB
Rice noodles with a spicy lime accented sauce(凉拌米线）great texture, flavor, and aroma---10RMB
Plus you get free green papaya salad and cucumbers with something nearly identical to salsa roja for dipping.