I’ve been here for two months, but it’s been hard finding cheap, affordable, healthy (or semi-healthy…) meals around where I live. In Dalian, within a stone’s throw of my apartment, I had the daily morning market and a street filled with small food stalls where I could get a great meal in several minutes for 5-10 kuai. There was always something new to try. In Kunming, I live in a ritzier area that is populated with Western-style cafes and sit down restaurants. I have to walk a block or two to get to some more affordable Chinese places.
However, I have found several places that I’ve been to multiple times. At one cafe, they have a salad for 20 kuai with walnuts, cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers and a tangy, homemade dressing that is to die for. Did I mention that they have homemade croutons piled on top? Hits the spot when I want some fresh greens.
Down the street, there is a hole in the wall Xinjiang (westernmost province in China that is predominantly Muslim) restaurant that makes some hearty noodle dishes. My favorite is 丁丁炒面 (chopped chopped fried noodles). The first two characters, 丁丁 (ding ding), are supposedly the sound that a knife makes when chopping things. Gotta love Chinese!
The freshly-made noodles are chopped up (surprise, surprise!) and stir-fried with red onions, green onions, tomatoes, zucchini, and small pieces of beef in a slightly spicy, saucy tomato-based sauce. It’s served piping hot in a huge mound that fills a dinner plate. All of that noodley, veggie goodness costs 9 kuai.
My go-to breakfast favorite is the English muffin sandwich at a cafe right across from my house. They serve scrambled eggs, a slice of cheese and bacon on a homemade “English muffin” that is actually just a dense, doughy piece of bread.
For 15 kuai, it isn’t a cheap Chinese breakfast (but doesn’t break the bank), and fills my tummy with eggy goodness. You can also get it as part of a meal with a latte or cappuccino. This morning I had one with a latte as I graded papers. Perfection! (And a great way to start my four-day weekend.)
There’s another restaurant that serves great coffee with free refills until 2 pm. That’s dangerous territory for a coffee addict like myself. I’ve also been to a great dumpling restaurant and two Dai (ethnic minority in China similar to Thai) restaurants that aren’t too far from where I live. When I’m craving some simple rice and veggies I just cook at home. I’m still searching for some more good places to eat, but I guess that just means that I need to explore the city a little more!