On the trail of the chilli in Yunnan, going along the Tea Horse Road (after a touristy fashion), the colleague who was accompanying me and I started out as usual: in Kunming.
There was not much time, but at least I wanted to have gone past one of its better-known and bigger “wet” markets – which means nothing but a market for fresh produce.
Officially, a market like this is even known as a nongmao shichang (农贸市场), a – wait for it! – farmer’s (products) market…
Kunming’s Zhuanxing market is in a somewhat curious place in town – well, not exactly in its center, but then, where should a farmer’s market be?
Of course, this is not a Union Square Greenmarket that’s a (relatively) new fashion, it’s just a part of life. Hence, it is where people live and there was room for it.
Still, it’s a bit strange to be in some almost-random part of town as a visitor, and then to turn off the ordinary road into a non-descript passageway – only to end up in this paradise of produce.
The weather was not exactly the best, either, but the market did not disappoint.
Insights and Looks
Right then and there, I immediately found some insight into the diversity of vegetables and fungi of Yunnan, some interesting and spiced-up food – and the chilli that I have most come to associate with Yunnan, it’s “wrinkled skin chilli” zhoupi lajiao.
Let’s take a look!
This diversity in China, and especially in Yunnan, is just mind-blowing.
Quite a few bits of the produce are very familiar – and then there are some I only know because I have enough China experience.
Some are so local and peculiar, I have hardly any idea what they are.
Ferns are used. Mushrooms grow and are used in abundance.
Poultry, Meat, and Pickles
Of course, there are dead animals on a market like this… and the black chicken looks particularly dinosaur-ish ;)
There is also a plethora of pickles…
… and that includes the zhoupi lajiao:
This “wrinkled-skin chilli” is also being sold fresh.
Together with garlic scapes and fresh ginger and other chilli.
This time around, it was interesting. There was not only the green middle-sized zhoupi lajiao I had seen before, there were different lengths and, uhm, girths – and also red ones.
Although, coming to think about it, it always seems to be the ripe red zhoupi lajiao that is pickled.
Doufu (tofu) is something I always find myself giving a closer look. The diversity of this simple soy one finds in China is just astounding!
Spicy Douhua Mixian
In the middle of all that, we found breakfast – and an interesting one.
Spicy douhua (“tofu flower”) rice noodles, mixing together the pudding-like fresh tofu, rice noodles, some toppings, and a spicy chilli oil.
They are served chilli at the bottom, all else on top, to be mixed:
An odd but surprisingly good combination of textures and flavors, I found. Also odd for breakfast, but nourishing and probably healthy: a bowl of fermented rice with small tangyuan rice balls.
And on we went, up along the Tea Horse Road…