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Mutton That Keeps You Warm In Winter

Plateau dwellers are prone to eating mutton in wintertime to keep warm. If you are a vegetarian, please Do Not anger over this article, it just serves to introduce food of Yunnan. Growing up in Yunnan, I remember well that when autumn says hello to winter, my father liked to prepare a mutton meal for the whole family. Indeed, it is right decision to have a mutton meal in winter especially mutton hotpot! We can not number the ways Yunnan locals prepare mutton, but it remains utterly irresistible to indulge with a big mutton meal in Yunnan.

Kunming (kūn mínɡ)
Xiaobanqiao (xiǎo bǎn qiáo) and Guanjie (ɡuān jiē) are the two favourite places of Kunmingese to "indulge" themselves in mutton dishes. When Guanjie Market which seemed a little chaotic was abolished couple of year ago, the priority choice has to be Xiaobanqiao for most people of Kunming. But, to be frank, for those outcomers from developed areas/countries (such as Western countries), to eat in foremost clean and then decent restaurants is paramount. In many places downtown Kunming, there are many such places for you to go. 

(In the past, hordes of Kunmingese enjoyed mutton on market day of Guanjie)

In Kunming, there is a big choice of mutton restaurants that feature orthodox original flavours of Huize, Dongchuan, Luquan, Chuxiong and many other places of Yunnan province.

Qujing (qǔ jìnɡ)
Mutton hotpot in Qujing has a big number of gourmands especially in wintertime. You may have been at the annually held Zhujiangyuan (Waterhead of Pearl River) Gourmet Festival to witness festivalgoers try the simmered mutton-fatty, aromatic but not greasy at all.

(Simmered mutton of Qujing Municipality)

Qujing locals have gotten used to cooking mutton by simmering for at least six plus hours in marmites. Mutton-themed restaurants and eateries (such as rice noodle with mutton soup, known as "Yang Rou Mi Xian", yánɡ ròu mǐ xiàn) have a long history here. Dongshan market day is when hordes of locals head for feasting on the picnic-style mutton hotpot in the open. Sellers get to the market place a day before, setting up makeshift and ramshackle stoves with rocks to simmer mutton in caldrons. Believe it or not, the mutton will have been sold out next morning.

Fuyuan (fù yuán)
My experience for mutton hotpot in Fuyuan County took place three years ago when I went to Guizhou Province's Xingyi (xìnɡ yì) City with two westerners. On the way back to Kunming, the driver suggested having a mutton hotpot for super. I have to chip in here that drivers especially tour drivers can be called "real gourmets", as they know where to eat yummy food, and what restaurants are locally famous and wallet-friendly. The mutton meal was quite impressive. I remember there were some Chinese medicinal herbals in the pot such as Chinese Agileca root (Dang Gui, dānɡ ɡuī), Chinese wolfberries (Gou Qi, ɡóu qǐ), and Tsao-ko etc. It was a pity that only two of us enjoyed the supper, because we, if more people, should have ordered more mutton dishes to fulfill a "Quan Yang Xi" banquet with assorted mutton dishes.

Huize (huì zé)
Goats/sheep of Huize County are grazed in frigid mountainous areas. Huize prides itself on a big coverage of grass coverage; e.g., Dahai Township’s Caoshan Mt (Grass Mt) is very famous in the northeast of Yunnan and suitable for animal husbandry. The point is that the locals of Huize use considerably capsicum to prepare mutton hotpot, very similar to Sichuan cuisine. Yet, you need sufficient courage to try Huize-style mutton hotpot.

(Caoshan Mt in Dahai Township of Huize County)

I was once an eater in Dongchuan (dōnɡ chuān)
People in Dongchuan District of Kunming like eating the suet in a hotpot meal. How comes? Hold it! My explanation is: In many areas, the suet is only used to make cooking oil rather than eaten in hotpot. At a dinner, when I was served the snow-white thing by a friend of mine, I lost my way because I knew if I dropped it, it meant offence, and if I just put it in my mouth, I would undoubtedly "suffer" (I had tried that taste before somewhere else). For the sake of "mianzi" (face), I threw it unhesitantly into my mouth. To my surprise, it tasted nice-not greasy as imagined. This experience in Dongchuan has revised my stereotyped thought of suet-I mean only confined to Dongchuan.


Dongchuan is a big producer of potato in Kunming. My other interesting experience of Dongchuan is that, when I drove to the Red Land on a photo-shooting tour, I sopped at a small inn for night. You know, urban residents like buying farm produce when they go to the countryside for sightseeing. I was interested in sacks of potatoes in a storage house near the inn, and came up with an idea to get some. The keeper was a toothy grandpa in his 60s. He asked me if I needed any help. Knowing I intended to buy some potatoes, he sold me some 40 kg "imposingly" at a very low price, saying it was a good chance to take home some specialties since I was here. It was good I drove a car, and if I bought them in town, it should have costed me much more than I had paid. Ha! Ha, sometimes you need to learn to be an accountant…

Yuxi (yù xī)
Yuxi locals have developed lots of ways preparing mutton dishes such as fried mutton, braised mutton, fried goat liver, fried goat foot, hotpot, and steamed mutton. In some places, you can even order "Yang Quan Xi"-dishes composed of mutton differently prepared. Jiasa (or Gasa, ɡā sǎ) of Xinping County is the place we recommend if you are Yuxi-bound for travelling, because you can taste the Huayao Dai ethnic mutton hotpot.

(Assorted mutton dishes of Yuxi Municipality)

What makes mutton hotpot of Gasa popular in Yuxi is the Ancient Tea-Horse Trail (Road) history. You never know visitors go there either for the mutton or for the stories of the horse caravans.

Chuxiong (chǔ xiónɡ)
The Yi ethnic people in Chuxiong take mutton as a household dish to treat guests. When they are preparing mutton hotpot, no condiments except salt are added in the caldron. But assorted spices will play their role on the dining table such as Chinese prickly ash berries (Huajiao, huā jiāo), cayenne, coriander, onion, ginger and mint. The sheepy odor is smartly and completely concealed for appetite.

(Picnic-style mutton hotpot of Chuxiong)

In most of Yi ethnic communities, mutton is a must for festivals and celebrations. If you go there some day, you will be definitely invited to a meal. Besides mutton, you'll be served home-brewed liquor. What a meal!

Mi'le (mí lè)
Mi'le, about three hours' drive from Kunming, is famed for its palatable mutton hotpot. But you have to move early in the morning because many sophisticated gourmands most likely "queue" in restaurants at five or six a.m. Veggies are usually prepared for hotpot, which differentiates Mi'le from elsewhere.

(Mutton hotpot of Mi'le County)

Luxi (lú xī)
What Luxi impresses people is hotpot restaurants preparing mutton hotpot on independent coal/charcoal braziers. Here, big cuts of mutton and haggis are cooked together, bubbling and seething.

(Copper sculptures are erected as a “landmark” of mutton hotpot in Luxi County, Honghe Prefecture)

Luxi county's Dongshan goats are the best choice for mutton hotpot, tender and nutritious so citizens there like it (mutton) very much. Why not have a try when going to visit Alu Ancient Cave of Luxi?

Black goat, the “top slot” of mutton hotpot in Lijiang (lì jiānɡ)
To many, Lijiang is too famous to speak of. Many locals there survive on animal husbandry. Black goat is a specialty of Lijiang; and a great diversity of Chinese cuisines has brought here with the boom of travel industry. So many Chinese tourists prefer to be "gluttons" of Chinese food though there are many foreigners-run western restaurants and cafes. Black goat is the "top slot" of mutton hotpot here. When strolling around Jinkai (jīn kǎi) Square, what greets you are billboards with striking slogans for "Hei Shan Yang" (black goat). In addition to snacks such as "chickpea jelly" Tofu and Lijiang Baba Cake, you can give it a try!

(Mutton hotpot of Lijiang)

Travel Tips

Mileages from Kunming to some other parts of Yunnan 
1-Kunming-Luxi County: appr. four hours' drive (170 km);
2-Kunming-Qujing: appr. two and a half hours' drive (140 km)
3-Kunming-Dongchuan District: appr. three hours' drive (160 km);
4-Kunming-Mi'le County: appr. 140 km;
5-Kunming-Chuxiong: appr. 150 km;
6-Kunming-Fuyuan: appr. 230 km;
7-Kunming-Gasa (Jiasa): appr. 250 km;
8-Kunming-Lijiang: appr. 530 km, flights available;
9-Kunming-Huize County: appr. 250 km;

Scenic attractions
1-Luxi County of Honghe Prefecture: Alu Ancient Cave; Chengzi Village (Earthen House); 
2-Mi'le County of Honghe Prefecture: Vineyards; Jinping Mt.; Bailong Cave; Huquan Ecological Park for hotsprings;
3-Chuxiong: Yi People's Ancient Town constructed in 2005; the Solar Calendar Park (Square); Lufeng County's World Dinosaur Valley (on the way to Chuxiong from Kunming);Chuxiong Prefectural Museum etc;
4-Gasa (Jiasa) Town of Xinping County: Huaoyao Dai ethnic villages of Dabinglangyuan and Damuyu; 
5-Dongchuan District of Kunming: The Red Land; Jiaozi Snow Mt.;  
6-Huize County of Qujing Municipality: Huize Black-necked Crane Nature Reserve.

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