travel: street food of lijiang

by hungryrabbit on March 13, 2012

travel: street food of Lijiang

We started our Yunnan Province vacation on a sunny day starting from Hong Kong. Two plane rides, three airports, and some $12 airport coffee later, we finally arrive at Lijiang just in time for an amber sunset.

After being greeted by Rock, our cheery tour guide whose English name refers to his family name not his musical preferences, we drove through curvy, dusty hillside roads under construction toward our destination—the Old Town section of Lijiang. Forty minutes later, we turned into our hotel and were told that it’s directly adjacent to the Old Town (not that we could tell in the surrounding darkness).

Relaxing would have to wait. We dropped our bags, and Rock guided us through the maze of winding car-less alleys only slightly illuminated from the entranceways of homes and businesses or the occasional bluish street lamp. We navigated the zig-zag course of trenches, fast walking locals, and missing paving stones, wondering if we would be able to find our way back.

Trundling along behind M and trying to listen to Rock explaining the history of the town (not so easy when he was five feet ahead and we’re walking single-file on planks over an open pit), my biggest dilemma was WHAT’S FOR DINNER? We’d been surviving on plane and airport semi-food all day. Within a several minutes, we emerged from a narrow pathway onto a bright and busy main street. Though much wider than the side alleys, it was packed with Chinese tourists and locals—and sensory overload from the swirl of the chatty crowds and the small shops selling hand-woven fabrics, yak jerky, silver jewelry, coffee & tea, leather goods, traditional instruments, cheap souvenirs,, CDs, and more.

At that moment, I wanted to be Moses and part this Red Sea, but alas, we had to go local. Patiently nudging our way toward the main square, aptly named, Square Market, M asked Rock for restaurant recommendations (God, I love this man for sensing my dire need). Since I couldn’t hear much of their conversation, I soaked in the scene and found myself sniffing the air . . . and there it was, the smell of skewer food.

A long stretch of the street was filled with vendors, selling all sorts of street food—from spicy to garlicky, from smoky to sweet. Though I wasn’t even close enough to a stand to purchase anything, I was content for a brief moment to witness the happy faces of snackers—and inhale the possibilities.
M and I agreed that we should have a proper dinner and go back the next day for snacks. During the next few days, we visited famous sites of Lijiang and the presence of street food was everywhere. It wasn’t just for tourists but for the locals, as well. For example, these sticky charcoal colored cakes (using the same herbs as grass jelly and topped with spicy condiments) are a popular snack for locals at the Stone Drum Tower.

Street cuisine in Lijiang was definitely about visual stimulation as much as taste—and it hinted at the extraordinary local sites and scenery to come. I’ll post more on Lijiang’s food, famous places, and culture, and I’ll do the same for Dali and Kunming.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Jackie Gordon Singing Chef March 13, 2012 at 7:55 am

How FUN and YUM! I want to know what everything in those photos is. Tomorrow you can go over it with me.
I should never look at your savory blogs before breakfast!!! I almost licked the screen.

Georgie March 13, 2012 at 10:16 am

What a wonderful experience. Love visiting foreign countries and eating all the cuisine we’re not accustom to here. It’s looks delicious!

Jamie March 13, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Ken, this is amazing! The pics are fabulous and boy oh boy I would not be able to stop eating. I am amazed that street food looks so beautiful and good – I always imagine street food anywhere is just scooped up and dropped in a napkin – this is all so gorgeously arranged and looks so delicious. Mmm you are making me dream of traveling. Wonderful write up…

Margaret March 13, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I love reading about your traveling adventures, and these pictures are gorgeous. I’m all about the food when I travel, so I love that you gave us a sense of all the street food Yunnan has to offer.

Bill Scurry March 14, 2012 at 9:13 am

I would kill for a description of what each of those things were.

Brian @ A Thought For Food March 14, 2012 at 9:19 am

Look at all of these goodies! Wow! Ken, you must have been in heaven. Everything looks great and I love the stories that accompany it!

Deb March 14, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I very much enjoyed accompanying you on your journey! It was a delight!

Gail March 16, 2012 at 11:57 am

SUCH gorgeous photos. Ken, you bring the whole story…the food, the architecture, the people….magnificent.

Nancie McDermott March 16, 2012 at 12:22 pm

You took me away, AWAY from my desk in NC to a place where sizzles and horns and aromas fill my head, with People Walking Fast and sometimes stopping for Skewer Food! Sensory overload, indeed. Thank you for overloading my senses and for more of this to come. Beautifully served up. Eager for more, at some point. Taking this in.

sweetsugarbelle March 26, 2012 at 12:24 am

Ken no words for how much I love this type of post. I sincerely thank you for sharing your travels with me.

Jeanne @ CookSister! March 26, 2012 at 7:38 am

Oh you must have been in heaven! A true feast for the senses :)

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