Mushroom Diplomacy : During US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen‘s recent visit to Beijing, she accidentally started a culinary craze and put a Yunnan restaurant chain on the map. Yellen’s dining experience increased restaurant business and popularized jian shou qing, a rare mushroom.
Yellen and her delegation ate at Yi Zuo Yi Wang (In and Out), a popular Yunnan restaurant chain. Yunnan, in southwest China, is known for its cuisine that blends influences from Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar.
A food blogger’s Weibo post about her party’s meal sparked Yellen’s visit. The post highlighted grilled fish with herbs, stir-fried pickled Yunnan wild greens with potato slices, and cold rice noodles. The blogger called the food Yunnan and homey.
Yi Zuo Yi Wang confirmed the visit on Weibo, sparking a social media frenzy. “US Treasury Secretary Yellen’s first meal in Beijing is Yunannese” garnered 6 million views. Yellen’s chopstick skills and down-to-earth dining preference after a long flight impressed netizens.
Jian shou qing mushrooms stole the show. Yellen’s delegation ordered four portions of this prized delicacy, which bruises and turns blue under pressure. Jian shou qing, scientifically known as “Lanmaoa asiatica,” is a medium-to-large reddish mushroom with a yellow underside. It resembles porcini mushrooms, causing confusion and sometimes unpleasant results.
Dr. Peter Mortimer, a Kunming Institute of Botany professor and Yunnan mushroom expert, says jian shou qing mushrooms can be hallucinogenic, but the compounds responsible are unknown. Despite this, locals consider the mushroom a delicacy, and Yunnan restaurants prepare it carefully to ensure safety.
Yellen’s visit affected Yunnan’s restaurant chain. Their branches in major Chinese cities sold out of wild mushroom dishes, especially those with jian shou qing. Yellen’s endorsement boosted Yunnan cuisine’s popularity and demand.
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Yellen’s Yunnan restaurant choice is significant. Yunnan cuisine, also known as Dian Cai, is beloved by Chinese people. It has become popular among urban Chinese, especially young people.
Yunnan ingredients in Chinese fine dining have raised the cuisine’s profile. Chefs use Yunnan’s high-quality produce. In summer, Shenzhen’s Ensue, ranked 31st on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, uses 60% Yunnan ingredients. These unique ingredients enhance scampi appetizers with peanut shoots and uni custard with fresh wild chanterelle and dry mushrooms.
Yunnan loves mushrooms. Yunnan attracts mushroom lovers with 800 edible species. Mushroom festivals and lavish feasts draw foragers competing for the title of “King of Mushroom.” Mushroom hotpots and creative dishes are abundant.
Yunnan cuisine goes beyond mushrooms. Due to its diverse ethnic minority groups, its cuisine is full of flavors and spices. “Crossing-the-bridge rice noodles” are beloved for their heartwarming stories and delicious flavors. Yunnan offers Xuanwei dry-cured ham, rice pancakes, goat cheese (rubing), and wild edible flowers. The province is known for its earthy pu’er tea.
In conclusion, while the impact of Yellen’s visit on US-China relations is unknown, her dining experience has changed China’s cuisine. She started a food craze by choosing a Yunnan restaurant and highlighting jian shou qing mushrooms. Yunnan cuisine’s popularity is due to its high-quality ingredients, creative chefs, and adventurous diners.