Yunnan is often referred to as the land of perpetual spring (四季如春) which for those of us stuck in equally perpetually dry and chilly Beijing seems like somewhat of a distant dream. The best we can do is visit one of Beijing's many Yunnan restaurants and imagine lolling in the sun in Dali Old Town with a chilled bottle of Dali Beer.
Praise be then to the Crowne Plaza Beijing Sun Palace's Yunnan restaurant, Rainbow, which has teamed up with the Yunnan Cuisine Research and Development Center to create a limited-edition menu of 10 spring-like dishes. Chef Shang Jiexian from the Center's branch in Chuxiong (about halfway between Kunming and Dali) has been brought in to create the dishes in conjunction with Rainbow's head chef Richard Zhang (also from Dali).
The highlight of the new dishes is the Braised Mountain Lamb in Brown Sauce (RMB 186), its simple name belying its complexity. The lamb is braised in a sauce rich with chili and dried spices until it falls apart with a prod of a chopstick. Props too for the adorable copper dish (pictured above).
Other dishes make the most of Yunnan's myriad wild and rare vegetables. The Braised Assorted Vegetables Served in Stone Bowl (RMB 76) features haicaihua (海菜花), a delicate aquatic vegetable, and wild black rice from Xishuangbanna, braised in a chicken feet-based stock so viscous I assumed it had been thickened with cream. The Poached Sliced Beef in Dali Style (RMB 126) uses culantro instead of cilantro to enhance its spicy-sour character (in fact more spicy than sour – you have been warned!)
Catch the dishes on the menu until the end of March. (Note: Rainbow will stay open throughout the Spring Festival break, unlike some of these restaurants)
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Photos: Robynne Tindall, courtesy of Crowne Plaza Beijing Sun Palace
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