Phase 3: Interpreting Information
Background Information (from Phase 1)
In Xizhou most dishes are hot and spicy due to the Sichuan influence. There is a lot of iron in the soil so Dali fields are extremely fertile. Crops include rice, wheat, beans, rape seeds, maize (corn), and tobacco. Xuanwei Huotui is a strong flavored ham that is used in stir fried dishes and soups to enhance the flavor. Unlike other parts of China, the Yunnanese appreciate dairy products and many dishes are made with yak milk and cheese. Rubing/Rushan is a mild white cheese made from cows milk. The milk is first poured into a hot pan and sour curds are added so the process takes shorter time. Then a large wooden spoon would be used to stir the cheese inside to solidify the cheese. The cheese is then taken out from the pot and hands are used to knead the cheese and to wrap it around two wooden poles. Finally the wooden poles are hung up for a day, or eaten raw with a bit of sugar or salt sprinkled on top. Another way to make Rubing/Rushan is to spread a sweet rose flavored paste on top, which is a popular street/snack food. The vegetable selection in Xizhou is endless, some vegetables are that are grown are: lotus roots, bamboo shoots, broccoli, many types of beans, green garlic shoots, pea-sprouts, and many others. (1,2,3,4,5)
A popular dish in Xizhou is called Guo Qiao Mi Xian, and there is also a rich back story behind this dish. A scholar was preparing for the imperial examinations isolated himself on an island in a lake. His devoted wife was dismayed that the meals she carried to him across a long, wooden bridge always arrived exceedingly cold. By luck she discovered that by adding a thin layer of vegetable oil on top, the soup and noodles were sufficiently insulated. From then on the lunches she brought him arrived boiling hot and at the end, he passed the exams. Guo Qiao Mi Qian is made of soup, sliced meat, rice noodle, and seasonings. A big bowl will be served with boiling chicken and pork bone soup and a cover of oil. Then it is up to you to put in your desired ingredients such as chicken, pork, liver, kidney, fish, pickled pork, and vegetables.(1,2,3,4,5)
Yunnan cuisine can generally be divided into two groups, the northeastern part of the province and the southwestern part of the province. The cuisine styles are different because neighboring cities greatly influence the spices used and styles such as stir fry or boiled. The cuisine style of the northwestern part of the province has a Sichuan influence while the sourthwestern style of cuisine has a Laos and Vietnamese influence. Some well known Yunnan dishes include Yiliang Stewed Duck, Steam-Pot Chicken, and Over-the-Bridge Noodles.(2,3,4)
Yunnan cuisine is also known as "the kingdom of plants and animals", as a province with 26 different ethnic groups, the variety of cuisines is an important component of tourist attractions, Yunnan is also the home to a variety/selection of different foods as well as many indigenous vegetables. (3)
There is a famous tea "meal" in Yunnan called Three-Course Tea. Three Course tea is a way of drinking tea, which is reputed for "bitter tea" "sweet tea" and "final tea".
Yunnan has the perfect climate and amount of rain for growing mushrooms. Many edible mushrooms such as the cow live mushroom and the monkey head mushroom are indigenous to Yunnan. Each mushroom has a unique taste and are all filled with plenty amounts of nutrients. Several dishes in Yunnan have mushrooms and truffles in them, such as many stir fries and hotpot dishes.(2)
Tea is widely appreciated in Yunnan as well as the rest of China. Pu-erh tea is a dark colored tea that is grown mainly in Yunnan, this not only tastes delicious, it can also lower your blood cholesterol. (5)
Information from 3-to-5's
Xizhou Baba is like a pizza in America, it is a round crispy piece of bread with meats/onions, or bean paste on top. (1) Liang Ji Mi Xian (rice noodles) is also a popular dish in Xizhou. (3) Ersi which is rice noodles in soup is also a popular dish and we eat it during breakfast. Spicy foods is widely appreciated here in Xizhou, because of the neighboring province Sichuan. The people of Yunnan/Xizhou have a very strong taste, which means they like a lot of flavor and spices. Cold yellow pea noodles (huang dou fen) is a popular dish that is sold by all noodle vendors and is also widely appreciated by tourists and locals.(2)
Information from Local Contacts
After finishing phase 2 of my inquiry project, I started collecting information from local experts. This required me to step out of my comfort zone and walk to Si Fang Jie and talk to local experts in Local Food Products/Cuisine of Xizhou. I decided to write down some questions I have to ask so that there will not be any awkward silences. After a while I finally had enough courage to step out to Si Fang Jie and talk to some locals.
On one of my trips to Si Fang Jie, I met a woman called Ms. Hong. Ms. Hong is a potato vendor that is located near the heart of Si Fang Jie. To make the crispy potatoes, she begins by filling her pan almost halfway with oil. Then she gets sliced potatoes which depends on what size you get (small, medium, large) and puts them into the pan where she constantly mixes them with a metal spatula. After a minute she takes the potatoes out and puts them into a metal bowl, her mixing bowl. Spicy powder, curry powder, barbeque powder, and pepper mixed with salt are the powders she puts into the mixing bowl to make tasteless potatoes look more tasty and appetizing. A medium bowl of potatoes cost 4rmb and that is what I usually get because the portion is just right. (10) This information is relevant to my questions, because this is a possible answer to my third questoin "What are some foods that most vendors sell on the street in Xizhou?". This information helps me answer my question because all over Xizhou I see fried potato stands. Some are found in Si Fang Jie, while others are found in the market place near the bank. I never got previous information online about fried potatoes, so I do not think that this piece of information is inaccurate. Some questions that this informaton raises are "Why are fried potatoes a widely appreciated snack in Xizhou?"
Xizhou Baba is a popular food and is like a pizza. In order to make Baba, you would need a special grill that can be closed like a pot with room on the lid for coal. You would also need a rolling pin and a knife to roll out dough and cut the ingredients. The making of BaBa was really unique, first they would take a mound of dough, knead it and roll it out into a circle. Then they would add some ingredients such as onion sprouts and pork, next they would take a bunch of BaBa's and put them on a large metal tray in the shape of a circle. The tray would go on top of a circular grill and charcoal would be placed on another tray of metal which was located on top of the BaBa's. A fan was used to blow away the remains of the charcoal, and in a ten minutes the BaBa's would be ready. Xizhou Baba was invented around 200 years ago changed a ton since then. Mrs. Wang's family have been in the Baba business forever now, her great grandparents started the business. Mr. Wang told me that more information about his Baba business can be found here. There are three types of Baba, a sweet flavored one, a salty one, and a plain one. Upon our arrival, Mr. Wang also told us about the five signature dishes of Xizhou cuisine. He said that most of the foods are already "extinct", which means that they still make it but not as good as they used to be. The five signature dishes are: Xizhou Baba, Er Kuai, a special type of Pickled Vegetables, a special type of Brined Vegetables, and Wan Dou Fen. I know that all of those still exist, but none of them are as good and complete as decades/centuries away.(11) This information is relevant to my questions because Xizhou Baba could possible be a food that I focus and research more indepth about. I already have the process of making a Xizhou Baba so if I choose to focus on this specific question, then I would already have 50% of it done. This new information confirms what I already know because I knew it was a popular food of Xizhou. I did not know much more about Xizhou Baba so this new information does not really disagree with anything I know. Some additional questions could be "Why do a lot of locals and tourists like Xizhou Baba?" "What flavor of Xizhou Baba is sold more?"
Next to Xi Zhou Po Su Baba, there is a store thats sells noodles. Ms. Zhong owns that shop with her husband and her whole family works there as well. Noodles are a popular food in Xizhou and they are called wan dou fen, mi xian, and liang ban mi xian/liang ji mi xian, they are made from peas, wheat, and rice. The most famous ones are made from rice and are called Mi Xian (米线), Mi Xian can be served warm or cold like all the other noodles. Mi xian can be served in soup, in this case Ms. Zhong makes her soup from pork, vegetables, spices, and spicy powder. The cold version of Mi Xian is made by putting a handful of noodles into a bowl, then mixing in other ingredients like vinegar, onion sprouts, spicy powder, pickled vegetables, ru zhi (meat juice), and brined vegetables. Then she mixes the noodles with the ingredients and serves it for a reasonable price of 5 rmb. (13) This information is relevant to my questions because this information breifly mentions wan dou fen, and I could learn more about ersi when I head back there. Another reason this information is relevant to my ten major questions is because there are a lot of ingredients shown in the picture below and some of them might not be used only in noodle dishes, but in other Xizhou dishes as well. This new information disagreed with somethings I already knew. During my background research I read that Guo Qiao Mi Xian is eaten a lot in Xizhou/Yunnan but are not sold in the noodle shops I have visited. More questions popped into my head after this new information, some of them are "How is Mi Xian made? "Do resteraunts make it or is it delivered to their resteraunts daily?".
Ms. Zhong also sold a very popular popsicle called Liang Mi Xiao. It is made by pouring tiny slivers of cooked rice flour in a flavorless gelatin/jello, then it is frozen and kept in a cold place to be eaten in the future. (13)
While talking to Mr. Yang (shop owner), we were told that there was a delicacy called Erhai Frozen Fish. We never heard of this dish before, so Mr. Yang explained it to us even more. I learned that fish were taken out of Erhai (lake near Xizhou) and frozen to be preserved, later the fish is taken out and served with sweet jelly. This was the first time I have ever heard of this dish and hope to try it in the future. (12)
There was a fried foods vendor in the market place located next to the bank that I talked to, her name was Ms. Li. Ms. Li fried french fries, spiced chicken tenders, and sausages and sold it to people. When I asked her how she got her foods and ingredients, she said that they would come early in the morning and buy ingredients and spices from the market and she would take the ingredients she bought, cook it, and sell it to others. I thought it was pretty cool because she does not just sell foods, she buys them, turns them into a delicious snack, then she sells it. The process was quite interesting and unique compared to other vendors in Xizhou. (14)
Rushan is a cheese dish that is extremely well known in Xizhou. In Chinese the word "shan" means fan, and they call this cheese dish rushan because it looks quite like a fan. There was a lady called Ms. Zhang that lived close to Yang Zhuo Ran that was well known for producing rushan. The process of making rushan was more complicated than I thought it would be. First, take out some milk and some curd and pour it into a pot (medium heat). Then, stir the contents with a wooden spoon in a anti-clockwise motion, which makes the milk form into cheese. Next, take any tool and turn the little blobs of cheese into one big blob. After that, take the blob of cheese out and hold it in your palm while squeez it/knead it into a fan like shape. Meanwhile, take two woode sticks and wrap the cheese around them like a scroll. Afterward, take the cheese out of the two wooden sticks and wrap it around two large wooden stick (2-2.5 meters). Finally, take the large sticks and hang them outside to dry. Another way to eat rushan is take it out after you made it into a scroll and cut it up into pieces and sprinkle some sugar/salt on top. This information is relevant to my information because it is an example of question 4 about cheese products and dishes. This new information also tells me that rushan is an example of a popular cheese dish. This information agrees with my background research because I knew that Rushan was a popular Xizhou cheese dish. Some new questions this new information raises is "How much effort goes into making a living from producing Rushan?" "When and how was this dish invented?" (15)
Er kuai is a popular dish that is eaten very often by everyone in Xizhou. Er kuai is a rice cake with ingredients and sauces inside, like a burrito made from rice. First the dough is kneaded and stretched and a handful of it is used to make a pancake-like shape. Then you would fry it and put ingredients you want on it such as peanut oil, crushed peanuts, potato strips, cabbage, tomato, red chili pepper powder, sesame paste, red spicy sauce, spicy tofu, mollasses, sweet and sour sauce, and beef sauce. (16,17,18,19) I bought one recently and it tasted like a plain bun made from flour; but when you add the peanut oil, tofu, and the pepper seeds, the plain old bun becomes something new. The peanut oil oozes out each bite you take, the tofu is a neccessay component because it gives the er kuai some texture, while the pepper seeds provide an unique and tangy taste. Er kuai is a rice dish like no other. This new information is relevant to my topic because question 3 is about rice products and what dishes include the products made from rice. I already know the process of making it and most ingredients that are used, these will guide me towards my answer. This new information does not really agree or disagree with what I already know because my knowledge about er kuai before this was not really extensive.
Answers to Previous Questions (from Phase 1)
After a period of time in the village asking for help from experts, I decided that an update was necessary for my list of ten questions. I will focus mainly on Popular Foods of Xizhou and will not focus on how Xizhou cuisine changed over time. I then developed a new set of ten questions. Some time after I created new questions, I realized that I should focus on a specific food instead of a general topic. After more time changing and revising questions I listed five highly possible food questions.
Popular and Traditional Foods Questions
1. In Yunnan/Xizhou cuisine, what are the signature dish or dishes? Why? How is it made?
You'll find quite a lot of mushroom dishes in Yunnan - the local area has many varieties and they use a lot in their cuisine. There are also a lot of other local vegetables that you might want to explore more like the fried cheese and the glutinous rice cakes. A good place to get introduced to these foods is by visiting the market and asking questions to the vendors there. You can also try a lot of the food at the market.(6) Other popular foods include: er kuai, er si, Xizhou baba, mi xian, and rushan. (7)(8)(9)
2. In Yunnan/Xizhou cuisine, what dish/dishes include cheese? How is it made?
Rushan is a cheese dish in Xizhou that is extremely popular. Rushan can be eaten three ways: raw, fried, and plain. The process of making rushan was more complicated than I thought it would be. First, take out some milk and some curd and pour it into a pot (medium heat). Then, stir the contents with a wooden spoon in a anti-clockwise motion, which makes the milk form into cheese. Next, take any tool and turn the little blobs of cheese into one big blob. After that, take the blob of cheese out and hold it in your palm while squeezing it/kneading it into a fan like shape. Meanwhile, take two woode sticks and wrap the cheese around them like a scroll. Afterward, take the cheese out of the two wooden sticks and wrap it around two large wooden stick (2-2.5 meters). Finally, take the large sticks and hang them outside to dry. Another way to eat rushan is take it out after you made it into a scroll and cut it up into pieces and sprinkle some sugar/salt on top.(13)
3. What are some foods that are made from rice? How is it made? What dishes include this type of rice product?
Glutinous rice cake is in a lot of the local dishes. Not much flavor - more of a texture.(6) Another popular dish made from rice is called Er Kuai, which is like a Xizhou version of a burrito. First the dough is kneaded and stretched and a handful of it is used to make a pancake-like shape. Then you would fry it and put ingredients you want on it such as peanut or sesame paste, red chilli pepper powder, chilli pepper seeds, red spicy sauce, spicy tofu, mollasses (sweet and sour sauce), and beef sauce.(16,17,18,19)
4. What is Xizhou baba? How is it made? Is there a background story to it?
Xizhou Baba is a popular food and is like a pizza. he making of BaBa was really unique, first they would take a mound of dough, knead it and roll it out into a circle. Then they would add some ingredients such as onion sprouts and pork, next they would take a bunch of BaBa's and put them on a large metal tray in the shape of a circle. The tray would go on top of a circular grill and charcoal would be placed on another tray of metal which was located on top of the BaBa's. A fan was used to blow away the remains of the charcoal, and in a ten minutes the BaBa's would be ready.(11)
5. What are some ingredients used in ersi? How is it made?
Ersi is a soup noodle dish that is made from rice. Some ingredients used in ersi is rice, water, and some yeast. The process is simple, first boil rice (purple rice or refined/white rice) in a rice cooker until it is soft and fully cooked (a bit over done is fine). Be sure that the rice is boiling hot, if not keep on boiling it or heat it up. Next, put it into a pulverizing/grinding machine and catch the rice paste that comes out in a boiling coil. Repeat the previous step until it is mostly smooth and consistent througout. Then, Take the dough and cut it into small pieces about the size of one's forearm. Put it through a roller and bunch the sheets that are left over. Using the bunched rice paste sheets, put it through the roller pins again until all the rice paste has been used. Lay the paste sheets over long bamboo sticks and let them dry until they are almost dry (tiny bit of moisture is alright). Finally, take off the dried sheets and put it thourgh a shredder to turn it into the noodles. To prepare a ersi dish, boil a big pot of soup that is made from cold water, pork, bak choi/cabbage, and onions. Putting a bit of pork bones into the soup really enhances the flavor but is optional and based on your liking. Later, put a bunch of noodles in boiling water and pull them out after they start to unravel. Finally take a bowl of soup out and put the noodles into the soup. That is how rice from the fields transforms into a delicious dish.(13)
6. What are some foods that most vendors sell on the street in Xizhou? 7. What are some commonly used ingredients? 8. Are there any rare delicacies that are only eaten during special times? 9. What are some dishes that include wan dou fen? How is it made? 10. What are some foods eaten during festivals and holidays? Why? 6. How has the Xizhou/Yunnan cuisine changed over the last ten years? I guess that more flavors have been introduced and more creations with food have also happened. 7. How do neighboring provinces and cities influence the cuisine of Yunnan/Xizhou?
Sichuan influences Xizhou cuisine because of their uses of spices.
8. How do different ethnic groups affect the cuisine of Xizhou?
The more ethnic groups in a province usually means more techniques and styles of cooking.
9. What spices are mainly used in Yunnan/Xizhou cuisine? Why?
Chili peppers are mainly used in Yunnan/Xizhou cuisine because of the Sichuan influences.
1. Online: Yunnan Cuisine, http://www.linden-centre.com/autodraft-3/yunnan-cuisine/, accessed 10 November, 2013
2. Online: Yunnan Cuisine - The Original Taste, http://www.chinaodysseytours.com/yunnan/yunnan-cuisine.html, accessed 10 November, 2013
3. Online: Yunnan Cuisine, http://www.chinaculture.org/gb/en_chinaway/2003-09/24/content_29539.htm, accessed 11 November, 2013
4. Online: Yunnan Cuisine, http://www.chinakindnesstour.com/Chinainfo/food/cuisine/Chinainfo_497.shtml, accessed 11 November, 2013
5. Online: Yunnan Food, http://www.ifood.tv/network/yunnan, accessed 11 November, 2013
6. Naumann, Sara. Email sent November 21, 2013
7. Ms. Mai. Personal interview conducted by Michael C, 26 November 2013
8. Fay. Personal interview conducted by Michael C, 26 November 2013
9. Annaliese. Personal interview conducted by Michael C, 26 November 2013
10. Ms. Hong. Personal interview conducted by Michael C, 28 November 2013
11. Mr. Wang. Personal interview conducted by Michael C, 29 November 2013
12. Mr. Yang. Personal interview conducted by Michael C, 29 November 2013
13. Ms. Zhong. Personal interview conducted by Michael C, 29 November 2013
14. Ms. Li. Personal interview conducted by Michael C, 29, November 2013
15. Ms. Zhang. Personal interview conducted by Michael C and Ms. Mai, 3, December 2013
16. Ms. Yang. Personal interview conducted by Michael C, 9, December 2013
17. Ms. Ma 1. Personal interview conducted by Michael C, 11, December 2013
18. Ms. Ma 2. Personal interview conducted by Michael C, 11, December 2013
19. Ms. Ma 3. Personal interview conducted by Michael C, 11, December 2013
20. Photo Courtesy of: http://www.chinakindnesstour.com/Chinainfo/food/cuisine/Chinainfo_497.shtml
I will know when to move on to the next step if someone were to ask we a question and I could confidently give them a correct answer about Xizhou cuisine. After collecting loads of information from local contacts, I believe that it is enough for me to start phase 4 which is about taking my information from phase 3 and finding something from my pile of information to focus on specifically.