Colourful Yunnan

306 Flinders Ln
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9629 3038

Having had a fair few meals with Hao at his favourite places, I have more or less concluded that, as a broad generalisation, I struggle with appreciating food that my mainland Chinese friends enjoy eating. I have to be in the mood for it to be able to stomach it, because it’s often greasy, carby and stupendously salty.

All that said, I’m still always keen to try out more and more different styles of food. I briefly made a new Chinese friend recently and he took me to his favourite Yunnan cuisine place in the city. Colourful Yunnan, it’s called… and I have to scream out my queer eye here: look at the ghastly colour choices for its walls… Aaaaa sumbuddy kill meeeeee!!!!

Alright, I admit I’m a super boring neutrals and solids type of person (look at my living room and you’d think I’m straight), so maybe that colour call was a little uncalled for. And I suppose its got its own cheery charm. I liked how very Asian the place was, it’s also located on such a nowhere segment of Flinders Lane… so very far from Chinatown!

I was also very glad I had a food guide here, if I’d sauntered in on my own, I’d probably give the entire menu an instant fail and walked out, as everything looked so fried and salty. Aahahaha!

Let’s start with the less exciting dishes. The stir-fried shredded beef w dry eggplant $16.80 was something my Chinese companion hadn’t ordered before but looked interesting. This dish actually arrived last, making it difficult to enjoy with everything else.

Lots of beef mincey presence and very little eggplant activity here. I did not warm to the softish (bicarbed) texture of the beef and the marinade was many many notches too salty for me. I really wished there was more eggplant because that’s what I was looking forward to when I ordered this dish.

The next dish is one of my Chinese friend’s favourites, fried bean curd w Chinese preserved ham $19.80. Also termed “la rou“, I quite liked this spicy dish. Granted, it’s pretty greasy and salty still, but the paper-thin slivers of fried preserved pork belly along with thin-fried tofu were admittedly very delicious. Pieces of fried preserved soya beans were scattered across the plate, and those were good to pick and eat too.

Extra chillies, anyone? Wahooooo!!!!

But the cross-bridge rice noodles $10 was what my friend brought me here for. Many things arrived on our table: a bowl of pre-cooked plain rice noodles, a big bowl of chicken broth, a plate of assorted slices of chicken, raw fish and prawn, a quail egg, bean sprouts.

There’s even a story behind this dish. It details the daily excursions of the faithful wife of a scholar. She travelled large distances from home everyday so that she can feed her husband, who lived on a lake island. Tsk… how patriarchal. The only dishes that stayed hot through the journey were meals that contained chicken broth with a thick insulating layer of chicken oil.

So I guess what she invented was a traveler’s hotpot. The broth stays hot during the journey, it becomes the foundation for the meal, and all the ingredients for the soup are kept separate. When you arrive, you toss the ingredients in, stir, and eat.

All that story aside, it’s really just another noodle dish… but I actually enjoyed it. Of course, the heart-warming broth was once again salty salty, but after some ‘palate priming’, I finally got used to it. It was the noodles that I loved. Amazing texture… resilient, slippery, bouncy and yet… still  ever so soft and delicate. So nice! The noodles made all the other accompanying ingredients almost superfluous, although I quite liked the pieces of (waxed?) chicken provided as well.<

These days, I think I’m coming across as such a food-fussy person. I think it’s because I know better now what I like and what I don’t like, which can be both good and bad, depending on how you look at it. But I still really enjoy investigating new foods and new places, even if I end up not liking it. It all remains part of the taste journey, a food story. 

Despite being Singaporean Chinese, I still know very little about food in many regions of China. I am grateful to have been taken here to explore Yunnan food with someone who grew up eating it. I actually did enjoy my meal here in a way, just had to let go of my fears against foods with too much grease, oils, frying action and salt salt salt!

Meanwhile, check out also my foray into Hubei cuisine at Red Cliff (Carnegie).

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