A Trip to the Countryside Outside Kunming
Being a teacher, I was invited to join my friends with their children who were off to celebrate Teacher’s Day. The skies were blue and the weather was end-of-summer-like. A perfect day to go to the farm and pick our own vegetables.
In Canada, when you say you are going to the farm, you picture a huge, flat piece of rolling land out in the country. A farm in Yunnan is a very different picture. Yunnan’s mountainous terrain makes it almost impossible to find flat land. This farm was nestled in the valley of rolling land and the plots of vegetables are interspersed with handmade rivulets of fresh water from the fish pod at the center of the valley. We picked corn, potatoes, romaine lettuce, squash, eggplant hot chilli peppers, cabbage, green onions, cilantro, mint, runner beans, and radishes. Sitting by the first rivulet, we spent more than an hour chatting in the sun, diligently cleaning the fresh produce with fresh clean water by the stream while the children ran up and down the hills, trying to catch fish, and feeding and chasing the donkeys.
The women are afraid of the UV rays of the sun, since Yunnan is in a high altitude plain…almost 2000 meters high…so we are closer to the sun and therefore the harmful effects. I took the job of shelling the beans.
We barbecued the corn in their husks and potatoes in their skins on an open fire.
The kitchen, no running water, hundreds of flies, a huge wok built into the counter with a wood-burning fire underneath, concrete floor…the farmer’s kitchen. All the women joined in the cooking, each one doing a different dish. I watched and took notes – more fodder for my next cookbook, Secrets of Yunnan Cuisine.
I was impressed to see an entire little plot of mint growing, I never did see mint in Beijing or in Qingdao, so this was a treat. When I mentioned this to QiuPing, the fact that also loved the taste of mint and now use it in many of my dishes, she said she would make me a special dish. Yes, she was right, it was special. The mint dish is in the bottom left hand corner.
We all joined in a wonderful vegetable lunch served outside under the canopy of the pine trees and beside the open fire pit.
Yunnan Mint and Green Onion
3 tablespoons oil
2 – 3 cups chopped fresh mint, leaves and stems
2 – 3 cups chopped green onion, white and green parts
1 teaspoon Chinese chicken bouillion granules*
1-2 teaspoons soy sauce
Heat the wok, add the oil, and wait for the oil to heat up again. Add the mint and the green onion in equal proportions and stir-fry for one to two minutes or until the greens are almost cooked, but still brightly green in colour.
Ass the remaining seasonings and mix thoroughly, continuing to cook for an additional minute.
Serve hot with other dishes and steamed rice.