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Monday, August 15, 2011

Arty food in Beijing

"Lijiang pancake"
Selection of alpine plants ("frog skin" leaves, pine needles, and tree bark)
Wild hand-picked mushrooms marinated in Yunnan Nanmi sauce
Cold beef slices, marinated tofu and dipping sauces
Yunnan Qiguoji steamed chicken soup 

Broiled perch
Preparation of mushroom hotpot
Assorted mushrooms from Yunnan...
...carefully placed to be cooked in hotpot
The GIANT coffee table book-sized menu
Painting by owner / artist, Fang Lijun
LOCATION: South Silk Road, East Chunxiu Lu, Workers’ Stadium (west gate), Sanlitun, Beijing
CATEGORY: Chinese / Yunnan food 
DRINK: Pu'er tea
WE THINK: Go to South Silk Road for really delicious food from the Yunnan province and a dose of Beijing hipsters (sort of). The restaurant which used to be located in laid-back surroundings on the shore of Houhai lake now has several flashy branches, one of which is this impressive and tastefully decorated space by the Worker's Stadium in Sanlitun, the nightmare which is Beijing's upmarket expat slash clubbing district (girls wearing 'sexy bikinis' get into clubs for free). The restaurant is owned by renowned Beijing-based artist, Fang Lijun, whose paintings are displayed prominently on the walls and it attracts a large amount of hip, creative (and above-average wealthy) Beijingers. Yunnanese food, which is one of our favorite regional Chinese foods, shares culinary links with Thailand and Vietnam (the South-western jungle areas of the Yunnan province border Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar) and usually contains a good amount of chili and weird unfamiliar spices, which we like. We also like that a lot of the dishes are based on foraged, often native, ingredients such as mushrooms, mountain plants and barks (this is the main reason it's hard to get authentic Yunnanese food outside of China). One of our favorite dishes is the Yunnan classic, "crossing bridge noodles" (guoqiao mixian), but we decided to order dishes that were easier to share--like our 2 very tasty mushroom dishes: the cold one was delicate, fiery and crunchy while the hotpot one was as tender and saturated with flavor as an amazing steak. Our starters--except for the tofu and beef cold platter--were equally delicious, as was our perfectly cooked and very spicy perch and the fantastic chicken soup.
OUR TIP: South Silk Road is famous for their homemade rice wine. We weren't in a rice wine drinking mood and instead drank expensive, fermented pu'er tea which is native to Yunnan. In our opinion, Chinese rice wine is never very delicious, but this is probably a good place to try it.  

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