Like its neighbor Sichuan, Yunnan also has food embedded with tongue-numbing peppercorns and a generous helping of spice.
Cold Plate Station at Yunkun Garden
At both restaurants, there's a cold plate station where you can get your fix of pig ears and pickled vegetables. Choose three for a total of $3.20.
Pig Ear Slices
We opted for the pig ear slices and marinated beef with loads of chili oil at Yunkun Garden.
Crossing Over Bridge Noodles
Crossing Over Bridge Noodles is a classic Yunnan dish garnished with cilantro, green onions, and garlic. It's the regional version of chicken noodle soup. At Yunkun Garden, it's $6.75 and includes thin chicken slices, tender bamboo shoots, and rice noodles.
Water Boiled Fish
Boiled in a mixture of hot spices and minced garlic, the meat of the fish at Yunnan Garden is flaky and delicate but thick enough to soak up the spicy-and-numbing oil.
This feels a little necessary after all the meat and fish-heavy dishes already on the table. It's cabbage sautéed with chiles. Although the menus of the Los Angeles Yunnan restaurants don't have a large variety of vegetable dishes, Yunnan cuisine in general is typically heavy on the produce and fungi. Because of its geography and mountainous landscape, the province of Yunnan has a large inventory of rare vegetables.
Cold Rice Noodles
Listed as an appetizer at Yunnan Garden, the cold noodles at Yunnan Garden are large enough to be a full meal. It's rice noodles mixed with grounded peanuts, bean sprouts, chili oil, and finely sliced green onions.
Yunnan Steampot Chicken Soup
Oily and embedded with Chinese herbs and ginger, Yunnan's steamed chicken soup (this one is from Yunnan Garden) is a relaxing broth for a cold evening out. The Chinese for the dish is "qiguoji." The broth is made in a clay pot and the steam cooks the meat and mixture of medicinal herbs.
Spicy Lamb Chops
Sautéed with cumin and large red chilies, the lamb chops are bony but pack in a lot of flavor.
Cured Pork with Mushrooms
The cured pork has a jerky-like texture. Here it's mixed in with large leeks and a heaping of peppers and mushrooms.
Yunkun Garden's spicy shrimp dish comes with succulent pieces of curled up shrimp embedded with sour and spicy notes.
Seafood Three Flavors
The seafood three flavors from Yunkun Garden comes with crispy rice, white flaky fish, mushrooms, squid, bamboo shoots, and thin slices of carrots over crispy squares of puffed rice.
Sour White Pork
This came as a highly recommended dish by the Yunnan Garden waitress. The Chinese pinyin is suan ni bai rou. Thin slices of tender pork sit on a bed of bean sprouts mixed with a spicy and sour sauce.