YunNan Kitchen (彩雲之南), South End (Boston)

Went with a crew to try out this place. YunNan is legendary among people who have traveled and eaten there, but is less well known as a culinary powerhouse. Oddly, the YunNan classic of Crossing-the-Bridge Noodles (過橋米線) is not on the menu, but most everything on the YunNan specialties menu is worth trying. Multiple dishes have complicated layers of flavor, in fact I’d recommend generally avoiding any dish that you’ve heard of from another Chinese restaurant and go for the ones that seem new.

YunNan is famous for its dazzling variety of mushrooms, and the DaLi Fried Mushrooms (油炸菌子) offered flavorful fungus with a tantalizing tenderness and crunchiness. The chili pepper dip added a nice little zing.

YunNan Style Rice Pancake (米浆粑粑 ) has a pillowy, airy texture, interesting crunch, and paired with the sweetened condensed milk divinely.

YunNan Style Rice Cake (大救驾(炒饵块)) is a rice cake distinct from Eastern Chinese 年糕, but offers a delightful chewy noodle feel with no gluten, and here offered with a complex mix of meat, vegetables, and herbs.

Stir Fried Potato with pickled vegetables (酸菜炒洋芋 ) presents potato more as a vegetable than a starch, in thin slices with another savory, flavorful sauce. In the rest of China, I have seen potatoes usually julienned into matchsticks, I haven’t seen it as slices like this before.

Sticky Rice Steamed Ribs (糯米蒸排骨) also disappeared from our table, though the flavor didn’t stand out as distinctively to me (though everything was so tasty in this meal).

Mint Beef (薄荷牛肉 ) uses an unexpected herb in Chinese cookery, which played off against the beef beautifully. Also features tiny red chilies which were the hot/spiciest thing in our meal, but it was fine and very flavorful even if you picked them out. Together, it added yet another dimension to a fantastic dish.

I had read about XiShaungBanNa fish, stuffed with lemongrass and chilies and grilled, but they had unfortunately run out by the time we arrived. I subbed the Boiled Fish Filet in Chili Oil (水煮鱼片), which reflects KunMing’s proximity to SiChuan province. The SiChuan peppercorns did deliver a nice tingle, though I could have used more heat in the sauce. The fish filets were perfectly done in the sauce.

YongPing Braised Chicken (永平黃燜雞) is a clay pot of chopped up chicken chunks (bone in), slow braised in a complex sauce. This was finger-licking tasty, and the sauce featured black cardamom pods (草果), a spice unique to YunNan. These need to be picked out; they’re for flavor, and the interior isn’t great for eating, but the rest is fantastic.

Lemon Shredded Chicken (檸檬手撕雞) is a cold dish, reminiscent of SiChuanese Bang Bang Chicken (棒棒雞絲), but not nearly as spicy, with a sauce that delivered one layer of depth and complexity after another as it sits in your mouth.

KunMing Fried Cheese (乳饼) disappeared before I got a chance to try it.

YunNan is also famous for their cured hams, so I wanted to try the XuanWei Ham and Potato Rice (宣威火腿土豆飯) This made for a tasty fried rice dish, with the chunks of ham loaded with complex saltiness, sweetness, and umami.

We finished with Coconut Delight (泡鲁达 ), a preparation that reminds me of the tapioca soup (西米露) that I have had in Cantonese and TaiWanese places, but here the heavier hand of coconut and coconut milk lends the dish an unctuous creaminess. Let the milk soak into the crusts of buttery bread before eating the latter, your patience will be rewarded.

We also had an order of the Devil Sweet Sticky Rice Balls (鬼吹灯之牛打滚 ). These are glutinous rice flour balls (somewhat like the boiled sesame balls 湯圓 that are popular during the Lantern Festival, though they aren’t filled). The dipping sauce was a complex mix of caramelized sugar, ground peanuts and sesame, and ground soybeans, for layers of sweet and umami.

Nicely curated beer and wine list, though it’s a little tight for a large group, and there is risk of specialties selling out. But a unique landmark for a magnificent family of cuisines.


Thanks for the review - I’ll have to visit Yunnan Kitchen soon!

Your post says South Boston? Searching for an address online shows that YK is located on Washington St in the South End. … Is that correct?

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You’re absolutely right. Sorry about that; not sure I can retitle it.

Thanks Jimbob. I came here with folks from China around the time that the chef got his nomination for a Beard award. It was really excellent but I didn’t know what was ordered and was the only person at the table who didn’t speak Chinese (I am Chinese, but born/raised ib Toronto) so not much was translated for me. It was remarkably uncrowded so don’t know it has caught on.

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Years ago we had a Yunnan meal prepared by a chef originally from Yunnan (he’s cooking Sichuan now- i guess more name recognition). It’s got some of the dishes you mentioned as well.

We tried the fish from XiShaungBanNa. He cooked a mushroom dish as well, though of course, he didn’t have access to the mushroom available in Yunnan.

Interesting to read about your report. They certainly got the courage to run a shop with the Yunnan banner given the lack of familiarity of its food from most people.

I think it isn’t a bad thing that the noodle isn’t on the menu. Not easy to cook all these other dishes and then have to worry about the noodle, the broth, and the ingredient prep. That noodle is a lot of work.


Thanks for the review! Sounds great.

The joint was packed when we arrived on a Saturday evening at 7 p.m. One additional data point.

As YunNan cuisine is terra incognita to me (I spent a few days in KunMing, but the only thing I remember is Crossing-the-Bridge Noodles), I did a bit of research prior to the excursion. Gloria Freedman has a terrific cookbook and blog exploring the peoples and cuisines of YunNan province: has details. I have also found some interview bits where she tells stories of traveling and eating in YunNan, the most useful of which were from Milk Street Kitchen and from Eat Your Words The printed menu from the restaurant also has English translations and some explanations.


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