There is something about trade. And the ancient trade routes. Proof that humanity has always needed something from somewhere else. Proof that we, as a species, are where are because our ancestors journeyed for days and years to find the things that are now found in neat ordered boxes in modern supermarkets. Proof that we decided that their food was pretty alright too, and while we were at it, it may taste better if put some of our own food and created something new.
Yunnan brings all of this alive. Like the other trading hotspots of the medieval ages. Cape Town, Cochin, Xian…think of the food, think of the influences. To this conversation, I bring you the Chinese Pizza and the Chinese Hamburger. Very modern names for Chinese flavored fillings in to flat breads that are distinctly Central Asian in shape, origin and texture.
#1 – The Chinese Pizza: Walking around Li Jiang old town on a very satisfied gut, we come across this lady who is standing in front of a large drum shaped coal oven. Much like an Indian or Central Asian tandoor. Curiosity got the better of a full’ish stomach and we investigated. Language barriers were dismantled by two words uttered by the lady, “Chinese Pizza”. We had to try one. The flat bread went in to oven like a naan or a tandoori roti would. Slapped onto the sides of the drum and wait till it puffs up and chars slightly. One bite and the coarse texture of the bread mixed blended wonderfully with the moist insides that had a light mix of finely chopped chives, spring onions, sesame and pork. Central Asian outside, Chinese inside. A win for the trade routes.
#2 – The Chinese Hamburger: A little outlet in Shuhe old town which was our base for our time in Yunnan. Recommended by The Bivou, our charming little well put together hotel turned New Year riot party house, we walked over not sure quite what to expect. Not that we were worried, given the general high standards of food we had been experiencing during our time here. Out came a slightly thicker version of the flat bread, in it went in to a contraption that resembled an office drawer but was a grill. While the bread was heating up to perfection, our man took a ladle and went fishing in a stock pot where lay simmering some slow cooed pork. Out came succulent pieces of meat, which were duly chopped up and then inserted in to the bread which had been pulled out and torn off at the top like a pita. A chopped meat version of pulled pork, garnished with a bit of the stew sauce from the pot which was soya, five spice and wonderfully Chinese. A beautiful burger that smelt and tasted heavenly on a cold winter evening. One that had a little puppy following us in anticipation of grabbing a morsel or two. The Chinese Hamburger is a rather prosaic name for a preparation that has such proud ancestry. I would like to rename it The Southern Silk Route Burger.