Cooking South of the Clouds (Yunnan Cookbook by Georgia Freedman)
Yunnan is another province in what we like to call the Sichuan Pepper Belt of middle-west China. Nestled south of Sichuan and bordered also by Vietnam, Lao and Myanmar, its food is influenced by all those places. If you love both Sichuan and Vietnamese food, then you will also fall in love Yunnan cuisine, which draws on Sichuan flavorings such as chili bean paste, ground chilies, Sichuan pepper and pickles as well as the herbs, rice noodles and grilled foods widely loved in Southeast Asia.
Cooking South of the Clouds: Recipes and Stories From China’s Yunnan Province is the first major, dedicated Yunnan cookbook in English. Author Georgia Freedman has been traveling to Yunnan since 2000 and in 2011 moved there with her photographer husband, Josh Wand, who took the transporting photos in the book. They lived in the capital, Kunming, for two years, traveling the entire province and learning recipes from locals. The book is as generous with the stories and photos of Yunnan cooks as with their recipes.
Yunnan cuisine is deliciously diverse, varying widely with geography and, particularly, with ethnicity, as Yunnan is home to hundreds of distinct ethnic minority groups. Georgia organized the recipes by region, and in an interview on the Mala Market Blog gave us a little tour:
"Food in Central Yunnan is noticeably Chinese, with lots of stir-fries and soups, and includes lots of dried chiles and pickled vegetables. Northern Yunnan has lots of cold weather foods, like fried pork ribs and rich chicken soups, as well as Tibetan dishes that have become popular in the region. Southern and Western Yunnan both have lots of grilled foods, cold dishes (like salads made from foraged greens), and sticky rice. But the two areas are also distinct because the foods in the south are more similar to what you’d find in Laos, while the foods in the west show the influence of Myanmar and even include ingredients like canned milk, which was introduced by the British. And Eastern Yunnan has lots of dishes that are reminiscent of the foods of southern China and include ingredients like oyster sauce, which you almost never see in other parts of Yunnan."
You will find just about everything you need to cook from Cooking South of the Clouds at The Mala Market, but Georgia suggests you start with these ingredients, many of which are actually grown in Yunnan and its neighboring provinces of Guizhou and Guangxi, less industrialized regions with subtropical climates that pamper aromatic spices and produce two chili pepper harvests a year:
- Red da hong pao Sichuan pepper
- Xiao mi la chilies
- Fragrant-hot ground chilies
- Chinese black cardamom
- Star anise
Publisher: Kyle Books/Hachette UK, 2018
Format: Hardback, satin cloth binding, 287 pages
Price: $35 MSRP; $30 when purchased with Mala Market ingredients