Yunnan Noodles

While it's neighbouring Sichuan that enjoys the reputation for China's spiciest cuisine, Yunnan province, in the south west of the country, has perfected the art of the noodle.

This diverse region of rugged mountains and tropical rainforests is home to almost half of China's 56 ethnic minority groups - and a good deal of it's best noodle dishes.

Noodles in Yunnan come in all different shapes and sizes. They can be flat, round, thick or thin. Sometimes they are simply shaved off a quivering getanious block with a cheese grater while you wait.

Most of these noodles are made of wheat, coming very close in appearence and texture to spagetti, but both rice noodles and sweet potato noodles are extremely popular.

Yunnan's most famous noodles are probably "across the bridge" noodles. This dish, named after the daily food delivery of a dutiful wife to her scholar husband, is a "do-it-yourself" affair, as you add various bits and pieces to a steaming broth.

Elsewhere, street stalls and hole-in-the-wall noodle shops do countless variations of cold noodles. These dishes are assembled rather than cooked, and usually involve raw onions, crushed peanuts and up to a dozen sauces, oils and pastes. The result is a tongue pleasing melange of flavours, and leaves just enough savory/spicy leftover broth to embarass yourself slurping.

There is an old Chinese saying: "If you want a good life, don't marry a beautiful women, but if you want good noodles, go to Yunnan." There isn't really, I just made that up. But there probably should be!