Page 1

the ultimate food guide to


leah sprague



contents Maps 4

Rice 23 Pounded Rice Cake 23

Welcome to 5 Xizhou!

Sticky Rice Noodles 24 Rice Rolls 24 Rice Cake 24

Dairy 6 Dried Cheese 7

Wheat 29

Grilled Dried Cheese 7

Dough Pie 29

Fried Dried Cheese 7

Steamed Buns 31

Dried Cheese Popsicle 7

Sweet Flower Rolls 31

Yogurt 10

Buckwheat Cake 34

Homemade Yogurt 10

Rose Cookies 36

Dali Amorous Feelings Yogurt 13 Lesson Yoghurt 13

Other Sweets 38

Yogurt with Purple Rice 13

Dried Papaya 38

Milk Popsicles 15

Brown Sugar 38

Qingliang Milk Popsicle 15 Old Xizhou Milk Popsicle 15

Drinks 41

Milk Ice Cream 16

Plum Juice 41

Ice Cream Soda 16

Sweet Wines 41 Pu’er Tea 41

Peas 18 Pea Jelly Slices 18 Pea Soup 21

A Note 43 from Leah

Pea Flour Rose Cake 21



Best Shops in Xizhou A Da Xia Roses

阿达暇 Qingliang Ice Cream

清凉小屋 Muslim Bakery

苍洱回族糕点店 Milk Tea (Guoshiqi)

果时沏 Dried Papaya (Haiyan)

海燕紫苏木瓜 Rice Rolls

漾濞卷粉 Sweet Flower Rolls

正宗老面包子 Local Baba

农家麦粑粑 Baozi 贵州传统破酥包 4

welcome to xizhou! It is difficult to define Xizhou’s specialty foods. What constitutes a “Xizhou specialty food?” What if a food is also special to Dali, 20 or so kilometers away? What if you can find it in only one shop in Xizhou? What if the food is an ingredient, or a food common elsewhere in the world? Not wanting to draw a line, I tried to include as many of Xizhou’s common snacks as I could, or what was common to find in the market or in souvenir shops. Since a food guide can be so personal, think of this guide as a friend’s introduction for your own journey through Xizhou’s incredible food. This guide was built around the food and the people who created their own versions of specialties. I found no precursor guides or descriptions - too often any information in English about local Chinese food is limited to a poorly-translated, one-sentence explanation accompanied by a low-quality photo. To ensure that each food item is as accessible as possible, each food is listed with its name in Chinese characters, Chinese pinyin and a rough translation into English. Accompanying photos attempt to capture some of the deliciousness of the food, since words don’t do justice. This guide is very special to me because it has been the perfect way for me to preserve so many memories of my summer in Xizhou. Through my adventures exploring Xizhou’s food, I have had the chance to chat and connect with many local people. I truly hope you enjoy reading this guide as much as I enjoyed putting it together, and someday you can try each food in person. 慢慢吃!Here’s to good food! 5

Dairy Dairy is not a significant part of the diet in most of China, and is not a common food group that comes to mind when one thinks of Chinese food. However, thanks to Mongolian influences, the Bai people enjoy a variety of dairy products in their daily life. Even the traditional Bai three-course tea ceremony incorporates their famous dried cheese. Xizhou is full of small stands selling cheeses, yogurts, and milk popsicles.

Fried dried cheese, or a “cheese krispy treat� 6

Dried Cheese 乳扇

rǔ shān

The Bai people have a unique way of preserving their cheese by drying it in thin sheets. First, they make the cheese by heating milk and fermented soy milk over a stove. Then, they slowly clump together the bits of curd that form until they combine into a solid ball of cheese. Finally, they then stretch the cheese into a thin strip, wrapped around two wooden sticks. They let the cheese dry and harden on these sticks for several days. Street vendors sell the dried cheese, still in the rolls into which they were molded, at the morning market. Many snack stands grill or fry the dried cheese. Although the dried cheese can eaten a variety of ways, it is usually paired with sweet toppings.

Grilled dried cheese 烤乳扇 kǎo rǔshān Location: street vendors, some restaurants Vendors make this traditional snack by stretching out the dried cheese on a grill, brushing it with rose jam, then rolling it up on a wooden stick so it looks like a popsicle. Heating up the cheese brings out its smoky flavor, which pairs nicely with the sweet and sticky rose jam. Some vendors also offer chocolate sauce or chili sauce instead of rose jam.

Fried dried cheese 煎乳扇 jiān rǔshān Location: specialty bakeries, such as the Muslim bakery This snack is essentially a cheese krispy treat. Pieces of dried cheese are fried so they puff up, then the pieces are bound together with sticky sugar and sweetened rose petals.

Dried cheese popsicle 百家乳扇雪糕 bǎijiā rǔshàn xuěgāo Location: convenience stores This is a commercially-made, vanilla-flavored ice cream with small pieces of rushan, almost like unsweetened coconut flakes, scattered throughout. The savory pieces of rushan work surprisingly well with the classic vanilla ice cream.


Fried cheese popsicle


Drying cheese


酸奶 yogurtsuān nǎi Yogurt is a very common snack in Xizhou, again thanks to the Bai people’s love for dairy. From the small vendors lining the streets to the large supermarkets, dozens of flavors of yogurt are everywhere in Xizhou . Chinese yogurt is different from what many Westerners are used to; it is thin enough to drink with straw, and is served at room temperature. It is always sweet, and often comes flavored with fruit.

handmade yogurt

手工酸奶 shǒugōng suānnǎi

Location: street vendors Only offered by Xizhou street vendors, this yogurt brand claims to be handmade. Clearly designed for tourists, the larger version of this yogurt comes in a photo-worthy baby bottle. Although the original plain yogurt is good, you should definitely experiment with the wide variety of fruits flavors offered.

Handmade yogurt 10



dali amorous feelings yogurt 大理风情酸奶 dàlǐfēng qíng suānnǎi Location: convenience stores 风情 means “amorous feelings,” but it also means “local conditions and customs,” which may be a more fitting translation. This brand comes in three flavors: original, “mature/ripe” (熟, shu), and rose. These yogurts are more tangy than regular yogurts, especially the “mature” flavor. This may be the best packaged commercial yogurts.

lesson yoghurt 来思尔 lái sīěr Location: supermarkets Sold in packages of six, these small yogurts are the most popular commercial yogurt in the area. Lesson Yoghurt is made and packaged in a small factory about 30 minutes north of Xizhou. This yogurt also comes in flavors such as peach or blueberry.

Yogurt with purple rice 酸奶紫米露 suānnǎi zǐmǐlù Location: Guoshiqi Milk Tea Shop Milk tea shops are popping up everywhere in China, and Xizhou is no exception. This milk tea shop has a local Xizhou twist on it, and offers yogurt with purple rice. Try their rose-flavored yogurt, and make sure to add ice (加冰, jiabing) for a refreshing drink.

Milk popsicles 牛奶雪糕

niú nǎi xuě gāo

Since Qingliang Xiaocheng (清凉小屋) opened in 1982 and began selling frozen milk products, milk popsicles have become a popular Xizhou treat. Vendors sell homemade and commercial varieties, and often mix in other ingredients such as roses or nuts. A trip to Xizhou is not complete without trying the original milk popsicle from Qingliang, which is located at the corner of the center square. Be warned, though: the store is only open when the owners feel like it. 13

Old Xizhou Rose Milk Popsicle


original milk popsicle 奶皮冰棒 nǎipí bīngbàng Location: Qingliang You cannot leave Xizhou without trying the original milk popsicle - a basic popsicle consisting of frozen slightly sweetened milk. Try their flavored versions: nut milk popsicle, or their dark chocolate popsicle.

Old Xizhou rose milk popsicle 老喜洲 鲜花牛奶雪糕 lǎo xǐz hōu xiānhuā niúnǎi xuěgāo Location convienience stores The Old Xizhou brand is the only commercial branded milk popsicles. As with most commercial popsicles in China, they have a slightly icy texture due to the on-off refrigeration.


Milk Ice Cream 经典原味鲜奶冰淇淋 jīngdiǎn yuánwèi xiān nǎi bīngqílín Location: Qingliang Xiaocheng This milk soft serve is delicious. It reminds me of the hip Milk Bar’s Cereal Milk soft serve, but at a fraction of the price.

ICE cream soda 招牌冰汽 zhāopái bīng qì Location: Qingliang Xiaocheng Another Qingliang original, this ice cream soda is made of several layers: sour sugar crystals, a cup of milk, a scoop of their soft serve milk ice cream, and finally a little bit of artificial orange juice. The overall drink is creamy with a nice sweet-sour flavor. 16

Milk ice cream 17

peas “Pea jelly” might sound strange, but give it a chance! Liangfen is a type of savory jelly made from different types of starches. Depending on the location, the jelly can be made from potato, mung beans, chickpeas, or green peas. The most popular version in Xizhou is made from green peas (豌豆, wandou). Boiled then served cold, the resulting jelly is a smooth, slightly translucent yellow mound. Pea jelly itself has a pretty neutral taste; it is mostly just a smooth texture that is fun to slurp, and is a great way to soak up as much sauce as possible.

pea jelly slices 豌豆凉粉 wāndòu liángfěn Location: street vendors, morning market, restaurants

A popular street food here is a bowl of liangfen noodles. First, the vendor adds a generous layer of pickled vegetables (usually a lot of cabbage) to the bottom of the bowl. She then cuts off a large chunk of liangfen, slicing it into rough rectangles. Next is a small mound of liangfen noodles, thick white rice noodles, and thin yellow wheat noodles. In a perfect example of mise en place, she then tops the tangle of noodles and jelly with a spoonful of multiple different sauces and toppings, such as vinegar, chopped peanuts, chili oil, a sesame seed mix, and other unrecognizable sauces. The final touch is a dollop of extra soft, smoky tofu.

Prepared sauces and pea jelly 18

Pea jelly slices 19

A big pot of pea jelly soup with fried dough sticks 20

pea jelly soup 豌豆粉 wāndòu fěn Location: morning market Pea soup is essentially melted pea jelly. The soup is eaten for breakfast and often served with chili sauce and fried dough sticks.

pea flour rose cake 玫瑰糕 méiguīgāo Location: Muslim bakery

Labeled with a handwritten sign that deceptively reads “Rose Cake,” these delicious specialty cakes are made of green bean flour (绿豆粉, liudoufen) instead of wheat flour. They are soft and a little crumbly, and have a subtle rose flavor.

Rose cake 21

Steamed rice, ready to be pounded into erkuai

The different shapes of erkuai 22

rice Like most of southern China, Xizhou has many, many rice products. Many locals enjoy rice noodles for breakfast, and often supplement stir-fried dishes with a bowl of hot white rice on the side.

Pounded rice cake 饵块 ěrkuài Location: restaurants A Yunnan specialty, erkuai is made by pounding steamed rice into a thick, chewy mound. Literally translated as “ear slice,” these rice cakes are named after being molded into a shape that, surprise, looks like an ear. Erkuai is often served in thin diamond-shaped slices, stir-fried with vegetables and meat.

Pounding the steamed rice 23

sticky rice noodles 饵丝米线 ěrsīmǐxiàn Location: restaurants Usually just referred to as ersi, these rice noodles are made of thin strips of steamed rice cakes, or erkuai. Ersi are thicker and stickier than regular rice noodles. A bowl of ersi noodles is traditionally served with melt-in-your-mouth diced pork, pickled vegetables and a spoonful of spicy chili sauce in a simple broth.

rice rolls 漾濞卷粉 yàngbì juǎn fěn Location: morning market These rolls are made by spreading peanut sauce, pickled vegetables, and a little bit of chili sauce on a steamed rice crepe. The crepe is then rolled, resulting in a wonderful mixture of textures and flavors; the smooth, bland rice wrap exterior, the sour tang of the pickles, fatty peanuts, and a chili kick. These rice rolls are credited as originating in Yangbi, a village about 1.5 hours from Xizhou.

Rice cake 米糕 mǐgāo Location: some bakeries, some baozi shops Rice cakes are made of steamed white or purple rice. They are often made with a layer of brown sugar in the middle and on top, which is the only flavoring in the otherwise bland cake. Although they are usually enjoyed for breakfast, they are also served as a gift for weddings and other special parties.

Rice cake 24

Making the rice rolls

Rice rolls

Finished rice rolls 25

A big bowl of steamed rice noodles, or ersi 26


Fresh savory baba 28

wheat 粑粑 bābā Location: street vendors, Muslim bakery dough pie

Baba comes in two flavors: sweet and salty. The sweet versions are usually made with rose jam and brown sugar. The salty versions have ground pork and scallions, or sometimes come with a fried egg. Baba is very heavy and filling because they are quite greasy, which makes for a decadent snack or breakfast. In addition to the oil spread on top, pork lard is incorporated throughout the yeast-leavened dough, resulting in layers of soft dough with a crispy exterior. Vegetarians can try a pork lard-less version from the Muslim bakery.

Making baba in the square 29

To try more authentic baba, go to the baba shop in the back left of the morning market (in the meat section). The baba is thinner, less greasy, more delicious, and a fraction of the price!

Local baba from the back of the morning market 30


Steamed buns 包子 bāozi Location: morning market The biggest decision to make when buying baozi is whether to have a big one or multiple small ones. A big baozi is fun because it is a gigantic pillowy ball the size of your fist, but the small ones have a better filling-to-dough ratio. Baozi come in a wide variety of fillings, including pork, mushroom (a Yunnan specialty), pickled vegetables, or red bean paste. The best baozi shop in all of Xizhou (located on the map on page 4) is a little beyond the perimeter of the morning market. Their baozi dough is incredibly flakey and melt-in-your-mouth soft. Besides their regular pork baozi (肉包, roubao), you must try their soy sauce pork baozi (酱肉包, jiangrou bao), which is slightly spicy and even more flavorful.

sweet flower rolls 甜花卷 tián huājuǎn Location: morning market These steamed buns can only be described as Chinese cinnamon rolls. Made of leavened dough mixed with brown sugar, these rolls are sweet, sticky, and gooey. The best steamed flower rolls are located just across the vegetable section of the morning market. 31

Sweet flower roll 32

Jiangrou bao from Xizhou’s best baozi shop 33

A slice of buckwheat cake from the Muslim bakery

Buckwheat cake 乔麦饼 q iáomài bǐng Location: bakeries Many bakeries in Yunnan sell a special type of flat buckwheat cake, which is stuffed with sweet fillings such as red bean paste, rose, peanuts, or mint. The best buckwheat cake in Xizhou can be found in the Muslim bakery off the corner of the main square, which has an incredible lemon sugar-rose jam filling. 34

Buckwheat cake and rose cookies from the Muslim bakery


rose cookies 玫瑰饼 méiguī bǐng Location: rose shops These flakey rose cookies come in three varieties: original, purple potato and matcha. The inside is stuffed with regular rose jam or a rose jam and red bean mixture, depending on the shop. Many tourists like to buy rose cookies as gifts for friends and family back home. Many shops sell rose cookies, but the best cookies are from A Da Xia (see side bar on page 40). You have to try the A Da Xia purple potato version. The Muslim bakery also makes a very good original-flavor rose cookie.

Drying roses for rose cookie filling 36

Making matcha rose cookies at the A Da Xia factory


other sweets dried papaya 紫苏干木瓜 zǐsū gàn mùguā Location: street vendors, dried papaya shop A popular specialty snack, dried papaya is a food that many locals make themselves at home. Locals pick sour papaya around September, peel and slice the fruit, add brown or white sugar and perilla (紫苏, zisu) leaves for seasoning. After several rounds of replacing the juice formed by the sugar and perilla leaves, the papaya is left to dry. The result is a delicious, spiced, sweet-and-sour papaya. Many locals also enjoy making their own dried plums by the same process.

Brown sugar 红糖 hóng táng Location: morning market, some rose shops Brown sugar is often mixed with other ingredients, such as rose petals or ginger. It is sold in small squares and bricks. Local old ladies like to drink brown sugar mixed with hot water instead of tea, and many traditional snacks and dishes include brown sugar instead of white. Because it comes in a brick form, the brown sugar is much less refined than that in the US. Instead of soft and powdery, the brown sugar is quite hard and flaky. To use the brown sugar bricks, use a sharp knife to shave off thin slices.

Xizhou’s best papaya shop 38

Different flavors of brown sugar in the market 39

One of the most popular local rose shops is A Da Xia (阿达暇). They have several locations throughout Xizhou, and their factory and rose farm is just a 10 minute drive away. They offer a wide flavor selection of brown sugar, rose jam, alcohols, and more. Their rose cookies are often regarded as the best in all of Xizhou.



Local tea plantation

Plum juice 酸梅汤 suānméitāng Location: convenience stores The direct translation of “sour plum soup” aside, this popular drink is actually sweet and delicious.

sweet rose wine 木瓜酒 méiguījiǔ Location: rose shops, restaurants The most popular local sweet wines include papaya, rose, and plum. Some shops also offer peach flower or a rose-plum combination. These wines are deliciously deceptive; their high alcohol contents are well masked by how sweet they are.

ěr chá Pu’er tea 普洱茶 pǔ’ Location: rose shops, cafes Named after Pu’er, Yunnan, this is one of the most famous teas in Yunnan. The tea leaves are harvested, dried, rolled, and then fermented for at least three months. 41


A note from leah

Since middle school, I have often been on my own in the kitchen trying new baking recipes, or when out and about, photographing food. I found my community in college, though, joining up with friends and mentors who are as passionate about food as I was. I became actively involved in Penn Appétit, our campus food magazine, and discovered the world of restaurants and food entrepreneurs, full of ambition and creativity. My peers and I are out in the food community, discovering new restaurants, meeting food entrepreneurs and bloggers, and interviewing chefs trying new techniques and menus. I had friends interning at Philadelphia’s hottest bakeries, growing their own sourdough starters, and experimenting with exotic ingredients like tahini. Our conversations circled around new restaurant openings, recipe challenges, and gossip about famous chefs. I was exposed to a whole new world, and I couldn’t get enough. I continue to bake, and it is always more than a warm tray from the oven. Baking is a way to relieve stress, a reason to invite friends over, and as I discovered when I returned to China, an avenue to learn about a culture and history. I had a wonderful time meeting local entrepreneurs who cared so much about their homemade food specialties, and took the time to share their experiences with me. This guidebook is a figurative trail of breadcrumbs of my journey through Xizhou’s wonderful food culture. I hope that this book may help everyone enjoy Xizhou’s food as much as I do. This guidebook was published in August 2017, at the end of my marketing internship. As of the publishing date, I am a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania, double-majoring in Nutrition and Public Health. 43

Leah Sprague The Linden Centre +86 (0)872-245-2988 44

Profile for Leah Sprague

The Ultimate Food Guide to Xizhou  

Xizhou, a small village in Yunnan, China, has an impressive selection of delicious specialties. Written, designed, and photographed in summ...

The Ultimate Food Guide to Xizhou  

Xizhou, a small village in Yunnan, China, has an impressive selection of delicious specialties. Written, designed, and photographed in summ...