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American chain to promote Yunnan-themed menu

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PF Chang's Chinese Bistro, an upscale Chinese restaurant chain with more than 130 locations in the United States, will launch a new 'Flavors of Yunnan' menu beginning on Chinese New Year and running until September.

The restaurant's Yunnan menu promotion is some of the biggest exposure Yunnan cuisine has gotten outside of China. The Scottsdale, Arizona-based chain's Yunnan-themed menu is far from authentic - it features, among other dishes, 'crispy wontons filled with flavorful Serrano Ham, soft cheese, ginger and green onion served with a Chinese Honey Mustard' and a gluten-free dish called Dali Chicken with 'tender pieces of boneless, skinless chicken breast and firm, crisp Yukon Gold Potatoes'.

We won't pull the indignant food critic act this time, as this is a good way to introduce the general notion of Yunnan cuisine to a wider audience. We will warn fans of the new PF Chang's menu not to expect any cream cheese-filled fried wontons or Zodiac noodles 'with a blend of Kung Pao and Abalone sauces' if they make it out to Yunnan. Yunnan cuisine experts we are not, but we do know that there's a large variety of 'Yunnan food' out there, from the more Han-influenced dian cai, or Kunming cai, to the different minority cuisines: Dai, Bai, Naxi, Tibetan, Hani and so on.

To its credit, PF Chang's is charting new territory for Yunnan cuisine abroad, but we were slightly disappointed that it has apparently decided not to carry Yunnan-style alcohol. Rather than only recommending Australian wines called 'Poacher's Blend' and 'Gamekeeper's Reserve', they could have pushed the envelope a bit more by also introducing American palates to some of Yunnan's more unique alcoholic libations such as mijiu and shuijiu (rice wines of differing sweetness) or even paojiu, Chinese baijiu steeped in everything from plums to mangoes to hornets. At least they remembered the pu'er tea.

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