Kunming Cultural Snapshot

Population 1.6 million

Cuisine Yunnan (雲南菜) or Dian (滇菜) cuisine

Signature Dishes “Crossing the Bridge” noodles 过桥米线 (thinly sliced meat, vegetables and spices with rice vermicelli in chicken soup), Pineapple Rice 菠蘿飯 (fried rice in a scooped out whole pineapple), Rushan  乳扇 (flat strips of cow’s milk cheese grilled or deep fried around a stick), Steam Pot chicken 氣鍋雞 (chicken steamed with tonics and herbs in a ceramic pot), Jidou Liangfen 鸡豆凉粉 (green savoury jelly made from chickpeas served sliced and cold, fried or boiled)

Wine Culture Developing wine market with slowly growing economy

Wine Duty Approximately 48%

Founded in 765, Kunming grew as a trading centre between the southwest and the rest of China, consequently developing its own unique mixed culture of over 26 Chinese ethnic minorities including Yi, Bai, Miao, Dai, Han and Hui. Situated on the shores of Lake Dianchi on a 6,000-foot high plateau, it is regarded as one of China’s most picturesque cities. Marco Polo in the 13th century paints a vivid picture, “In it are found merchants and artisans, with a mixed population, consisting of idolaters, Nestorian Christians and Saracens or Mohametans… For money they employ the white porcelain shell, found in the sea”. Even nowadays, the colourful costumes of the hill tribes can be found threading through the streets lined with sweeping willow trees and the fragrance of camellias and magnolias.

Although other provinces may criticize Yunnan cuisine as having no distinct feature, such as spiciness, sourness or richness are unable to appreciate the mammoth assortment of fresh ingredients gathered from the surrounding mountains, such as the wild herbs and edible flowers. Yunnan is also China’s “ mushroom capital ”, boasting over 600 varieties of the 2,000 found in the world. Rich, umami-laden wild mushroom hotpots are a specialty of the province, containing over 40 different types in one helping. Guangxing Lu is the go to street for mushroom hotpot lovers, in Guanshang, southeastern Kunming, where the city’s wholesale wild mushroom Wood Water Flower Market is also located.

Due to its remoteness, Kunming had been an economic backwater in China until the last 20 years, when China’s trade with Southeast Asia starting growing and the “Go West” policy , aimed to stimulate economic development in more remote western Chinese cities, was implemented by the national government. With Yunnan’s enormous agricultural resources, the mushroom business has been booming, with the Boletus Edulis Association of Yunnan claiming that 10,572 tonnes of fresh boletus worth US$71 million was exported to Europe in 2010. International mushroom hunting tours are an up and coming business, such as US-based Daniel Winkler’s MushRoaming Tours, designed to guide mushroom hunters through southwestern China.

Kunming is an historical city whose growing economy hinges on its vast array of natural resources. However, will catching up with mainland China’s development of its real estate and other industries simultaneously destroy it? Meanwhile, the Guangxing Lu is open all year round for a warming meal of savoury mushroom hotpot.