One of the things that I like about being in Jinghong is that it’s a little less homogeneous than some other parts of China. There are several different ethnic groups in the area, none of them limited by modern borders, and a small but significant addition to this are the Burmese. Here, they are more or less exclusively involved in the jade business on which they appear to have a monopoly.
Other border towns such as Ruili or Baoshan have rather bigger Burmese populations, but in Jinghong they are just about reaching ‘critical mass’. By that, I mean that there are enough of them for a Burmese restaurant to be viable; there is now one in Jinghong.
The Burmese in the jade business here are more or less all from Rakhine State, a coastal area of Myanmar that has a short border with Bangladesh. They look like Indians and speak a Rakhine dialect which leads many here to suppose that they are Bangladeshi or Indian rather than Burmese. They are also mostly Muslim rather than Hindu. Their cuisine is Indian/Burmese; chai, roti or paratha, rice and dahl dishes, but they also make mohinga, a rice noodle breakfast dish and ‘pelamounjaw‘ a fried dumpling with soya bean paste inside. Occasionally, they also make bao zi – steamed dumplings. (The best bao zi I have ever had were in Myanmar. One time, I was in Monywa, to the west of Mandalay, and was taken to a roadside restaurant for breakfast. Excellent!)
A couple of times, I’ve had really good pelamounjaw. Noteably in Hsipaw, in Shan State. The ones in Jinghong are a little more dense, less delicate, heartier, and make a good alternative to other local foods.
Pelamounjaw and chai.
Where’s it From?
More of a challenge than a benign question.
People often come into the shop with tea for us to taste, either to ‘test’ their tea or to ‘test’ us. This has been a regular event since we opened the shop in Jinghong. Initially perhaps, because we aren’t locals (one from the north-east and a foreigner), but over time that feeling has been replaced by a sense of a shared interest. HM has considerable knowledge of certain areas’ of Xishuangbanna tea. A while back someone brought in some loose tea saying it was Mahei tea. He took one look at it and said “That’s not from Mahei!” He was right. It wasn’t from Mahei but somewhere nearby.
It is also a question he likes to throw out in response to the same question when asked about our tea. His general view is that it’s more important to be able to distinguish if it’s any good. It’s provenance is secondary. “If I tell you where it’s from, how does it help?”
“Where’s this tea from?” …………”Where do you think it’s from?” What goes around comes around!
Beijing Tea Tasting
Next month we’re going to be in Beijing for a ‘Tea Tasting’ at Xiang Jiang Hua Yuan or Beijing Riviera. We’ll be tasting a couple of younger teas and an older Yiwu tea. Dates: February 12th and 13th.
A friend from Ningbo recently came back to Jinghong and brought with them this rather nice ‘Hong Pi Long‘ Zhuni teapot.