Cooking South of the Clouds – Georgia Freedman

Yunnan is a province in southwestern China with a varied landscape. The snow-capped mountains, rice terraces, lakes and deep gorges – all contribute to its varied cuisine. Travel guides refer to this area as China’s wild west. Georgia Freedman, the author of Cooking South of the Clouds: Recipes and Stories from China’s Yunnan Province states on her website: “For centuries retreating armies (and persecuted ethnic groups) have climbed up into Yunnan’s mountainous country, …. And like the American West, Yunnan is known as a laid-back place, the region with the best weather, the most comfortable lifestyle, and the best vacation destinations.”



Yunnan cuisine is a blend of Han Chinese and other ethnic minority groups in southwestern China and is one of the most delicious places on earth due in large part to its landscape. The region is famous for its mushrooms, hams, pickles, edible flowers, its use of potatoes, and its love of chiles and Sichuan peppercorns.

Yunnan’s food is exciting and unfamiliar, but much of it is quite easy to make, using simple techniques already familiar to Western cooks. Each chapter in this captivating book covers a different area featuring that area’s core recipes. Complete with profiles of local cooks, artisans, and farmers, as well as stunning on-location photography, Cooking South of the Clouds takes readers on an unforgettable journey through the land of Shangri-La and we are all the richer for the journey.

Georgia’s love affair with Yunnan began in Kumming, the capital of the province, with a bowl of noodle soup know as crossing the bridge rice noodles (recipe shared below). Her stories and recipes will no doubt have you falling for this flavorful cuisine and has me eager to order a Yunnan steam pot. I have a number of recipes bookmarked to make – the Meat filled momas, Home-style stir fried pork with garlic chives, Chicken and chestnut soup as well as dozens of others.

This title is one of my top books of 2018. It is spectacular in every way – the recipes are approachable and exciting, the stories and photographs are mesmerizing, and I find myself wanting to curl up on the couch to savor every word.

Special thanks to the publisher, Kyle Books, for sharing the recipe below with our members as well as providing three copies of this title in our giveaway below.

Crossing the bridge rice noodles
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For the Broth:

  • 1 lb. pork bones
  • 1 whole chicken, plus 2 whole legs with thighs and 2 more thighs (about 4 1/2 lbs. total)
  • 1 rack spareribs (3 to 3 1/2 lbs.)
  • 4 whole star anise
  • 3 black cardamom pods
  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce

For the Add-ins:

  • 1 cup lightly packed bean sprouts
  • 1 cup garlic chives cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 8 quail eggs
  • 3 oz. lean pork, such as a boneless chop, very thinly sliced (1/3 cup)
  • 2 oz. Yunnan ham or Spanish Jamón Serrano, very thinly sliced and cut into 1-inch squares (1/3 cup)
  • 3 oz. flavorful mushrooms, such as shiitake or trumpet, cut into thin slices (about 2 tbsp.)
  • 1/2 cup fresh or rehydrated tofu skin, cut into strips about 1/3 inch by 2 to 3 inches
  • 6 oz. Chinese roast pork with crispy skin, thinly sliced and cut into 1- to 11/2-inch squares (1 cup)
  • 3/4 cup chicken left over from making the broth, shredded
  • 2 lbs. fresh or cooked rice noodles (about 8 cups)
  • 2 scallions, both white and green parts, very thinly sliced
  • 4 tbsp. thin golden chrysanthemum petals (optional)

Seasonings on the Side:

  • Light soy sauce
  • Dried Chile Oil (page 276)
  • Dark Chinese vinegar

This gorgeous soup from the city of Mengzi is Yunnan’s most famous dish. According to popular legend, there was once a scholar who was studying for his exams on the island in the center of beautiful South Lake, a kilometer’s walk from the old town. His wife (whose name is lost to antiquity) brought the scholar food for lunch every day, but it always got cold before she arrived. One day, when she hadn’t had time to prepare a full meal, the wife grabbed a pot of rich broth, gathered all the raw ingredients she could find in her kitchen, and made her way to the lake. When she arrived, she realized that the fat in the broth had risen to the top of the pot and solidified, keeping the soup underneath piping hot, and she quickly added all her other ingredients to the bowl, where the heat of the broth cooked them perfectly. The scholar loved the resulting soup, and just like that, a delicious classic was born.

The soup is extremely impressive looking when served, with the ingredients displayed in tiny saucers or arrayed on a plate, ready to go into the bowl of hot broth. But that doesn’t mean the dish is difficult to prepare. The key to making this soup in as quick and easy a way as possible is to embrace what is available. If you have a Chinatown nearby, grab some roast pork belly and see if you can hunt down some fresh tofu skin to cut into thin strips or small squares. If Chinese roast meats are not available, American-style bacon would not be out of place. Raw quail eggs can be replaced with a very thin, crepe-like omelet cut into strips. As long as you have five or more ingredients, the rich broth will carry all the flavors and bring them together in a cohesive whole. And as for the broth, if you don’t eat pork, go ahead and try making the base with chicken and duck or even some goose. As long as there’s plenty of meat-and, ideally, a few kinds of it – you’ll end up with something fragrant and ambrosial.

In Mengzi, this soup is assembled in huge bowls nearly the size of a cooking pot. Diners choose how many ingredients they want to add to the broth (restaurants offer sets ranging from ten to twenty different toppings), then load it up with as many noodles as they like. This recipe is adapted to make four slightly smaller portions of soup (to fit in more conventional bowls), but if you have extra-large bowls, try making the original size by using eight cups of broth and twice the amount of noodles called for below. Cooks in Mengzi also keep their broth cooking for months or even years, adding more meat and water every day and building up a base of flavor. When starting from scratch, roasting some of the meat can help approximate the broth’s rich, layered flavor. Makes four medium servings.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Put the pork bones and the chicken legs 
and thighs on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Transfer the cooked meat and bones to a large stockpot, add the ribs, whole chicken, star anise, and cardamom, and cover with 5 quarts of water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and continue cooking, covered, at a low boil for 4 to 6 hours (the longer the broth cooks, the more flavorful it will be). When the broth is ready, stir in the soy sauce, then strain out the meat, bones, and seasonings. Reserve 
3/4 cup of the chicken meat, removing it from the bone, to add to the soup. (The broth can be made a day or two before you plan to serve the soup and refrigerated until use.)

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Boil the bean sprouts until tender, 1 to 2 minutes, then remove them from the pot with tongs or a perforated scoop, rinse with cold water, squeeze out as much moisture as possible, and set aside. Use the same pot to boil the garlic chives for 30 seconds, then rinse with cold water, squeeze out as much moisture as possible, and set aside. Divide all the soup add-ins into four servings and arrange them in little saucers or on a plate for each diner. Crack the quail eggs into small bowls or saucers, two eggs for each diner. If the tofu skin is folded into tight layers, pull them apart so that they resemble noodles, or cut them into small squares.

When the add-ins are all prepared, bring the broth back to a boil, then quickly divide the broth into four very large, deep soup bowls (4 to 5 cups each). Immediately serve with the rest of the ingredients on the side.

To assemble the bowls, diners should begin by stirring the broth with their chopsticks and adding the raw eggs (which should become wispy in the moving broth), followed by the raw pork or any other raw meats, the ham, tofu skin, mushrooms and any other ingredients that need to be cooked, and then the already-cooked ingredients, such as the roast pork, chicken, and cooked vegetables. Add the rice noodles to the bowl and stir, then garnish with the scallions and the chrysanthemum petals


The publisher is offering three copies of this book to EYB Members in the US and UK. One of the entry options is to answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post.

Which recipe in the index would you try first?

Please note that you must be logged into the Rafflecopter contest before posting or your entry won’t be counted. For more information on this process, please see our step-by-step help post. Be sure to check your spam filters to receive our email notifications. Prizes can take up to 6 weeks to arrive from the publishers. If you are not already a Member, you can join at no cost. The contest ends at midnight on January 15th, 2019.


Recipe and photographs from Cooking South of the Clouds by Georgia Freedman, photographs by Josh Wand, Kyle Books 2018. 

Post a comment


  • Karimik  on  November 14, 2018

    I cannot wait to make recipes from this book. We have hosted two Chinese exchange students the last 4 years and have an adopted Chinese daughter. We travelled to China this last spring and loved the culture and food! I really want to make a meal and impress my family and Chinese kids and this cookbook looks perfect.

  • lauriesk  on  November 14, 2018

    Stir-fried red-cooked beef with garlic, chiles, and scallions

  • jmay42066  on  November 14, 2018

    Quick pickled cabbage

  • ebs  on  November 14, 2018

    Zhanyi chile chicken. Our son, adopted from China, loves spicy food and would love this

  • Lkitchings  on  November 14, 2018

    Steam pot chicken with ginger and goji berries

  • jinni  on  November 14, 2018

    I’d try Maitake mushrooms with dried chiles first.

  • lpatterson412  on  November 14, 2018

    Potato pancake with chili powder

  • tennyogirl  on  November 14, 2018

    Kunming-style cold noodle salad

  • dbielick  on  November 15, 2018

    Clay pot noodle soup

  • MiMi60  on  November 15, 2018

    Home-style sweet and sour pork ribs

  • twinreader  on  November 15, 2018

    Crossing the Bridge Rice Noodles – so thanks for the recipe!

  • lgroom  on  November 15, 2018

    Clay pot noodle soup

  • Foodycat  on  November 15, 2018

    The grilled eggplant with pork – sounds lovely!

  • sarahawker  on  November 15, 2018

    Babao-style breakfast noodles

  • EmilyR  on  November 16, 2018

    Vegetable momos

  • kmn4  on  November 16, 2018

    Babao-style breakfast noodles

  • sipa  on  November 16, 2018

    Maitake mushrooms with dried chiles

  • thecharlah  on  November 16, 2018

    Yi-style squash with black cardamom

  • milgwimper  on  November 16, 2018

    jingpo herb salad, and dai lime chicken, and the pea curd…

  • t.t  on  November 17, 2018

    Grilled eggplant stuffed with spiced pork

  • elsid22  on  November 17, 2018

    sweet and sour pork

  • MelMM  on  November 17, 2018

    So many recipes in this book that are beyond the expected – white beans stir-fried with pickles would be one example that has my attention and I'm dying to try.

  • matag  on  November 18, 2018

    Pork with garlic scapes and Sichuan peppercorn oil

  • hibeez  on  November 18, 2018

    Pork with garlic scapes and Sichuan peppercorn oil

  • ravensfan  on  November 18, 2018

    Grandma's potatoes

  • PeavineBlues  on  November 18, 2018

    Qì guō jī

  • leilx  on  November 19, 2018

    Stir fried shiitakes with chili and Sichuan pepper

  • SnarkyLarane  on  November 19, 2018

    That carrot greens salad sounds really interesting.

  • akrupnick  on  November 19, 2018

    Steam pot chicken with ginger and goji berries

  • Uhmandanicole  on  November 20, 2018

    Fried bread stuffed with curry meat

  • Siegal  on  November 20, 2018

    Purple sweet potatoes pancakes

  • rchesser  on  November 23, 2018

    Babao-style breakfast noodles.

  • Jenamarie  on  November 23, 2018

    Sugar-coated deep-fried peanuts sound devine!

  • MuncyKitchen  on  November 24, 2018

    Stir-fried ham with green chiles

  • Laura1  on  November 24, 2018

    vegetable momos

  • RoseMGenuine  on  November 24, 2018

    Grilled eggplant stuffed with spiced pork

  • eatysmith  on  November 25, 2018

    Crossing the bridge rice noodles!

  • Analyze  on  November 25, 2018

    the cold noodle dish, and the purple sweet potato pancakes

  • LaurenE  on  November 25, 2018

    Stir-fried red-cooked beef with garlic, chiles, and scallions

  • joneshayley  on  November 26, 2018

    Meat filled momas

  • maci234  on  November 26, 2018

    The grilled eggplant with pork

  • RuthHarwood  on  November 27, 2018

    Pork with garlic scapes and Sichuan peppercorn oil

  • sipa  on  November 27, 2018

    Grilled eggplant stuffed with spiced pork

  • lapsapchung  on  November 29, 2018

    Meat-filled momos – something I associate more with Nepal so I'd be interested to see how they compare

  • divamode  on  November 29, 2018

    Yunnan grilled cheese slices with ham

  • Dannausc  on  November 29, 2018

    Grandma’s potatoes

  • Sidwalesuk1  on  November 30, 2018

    Quick pickled cabbage

  • Lizzybee  on  December 1, 2018

    Hui beef and vegetable soup

  • Rachelkg  on  December 3, 2018

    Clay pot noodle soup

  • fbrunetti  on  December 5, 2018

    Kunming-style barbecue

  • HannahLI  on  December 11, 2018

    I would love to make the Steam pot chicken with ginger and goji berries, it sounds delicious!

  • TammyDee  on  December 11, 2018

    I'd love to make Fried Rice with Ham, Potatoes & Peas. That sounds tasty.

  • sweatpants  on  December 12, 2018

    Ghost chicken with tea leaves is calling my name.

  • Brancica  on  December 12, 2018

    Any noodle dish would make my cut

  • riley  on  December 12, 2018

    Stir-fried beef with mint

  • Kimmaicutler  on  December 13, 2018

    Ghost chicken with tea leaves

  • cpattersongo  on  December 14, 2018

    Sugar-coated deep fried peanuts

  • sequoia55  on  December 15, 2018

    Steam pot chicken with ginger and goji berries

  • PeavineBlues  on  December 15, 2018

    Sweet and Sour Ribs

  • dtremit  on  December 15, 2018

    I never know what to do with the carrot greens from our CSA share — so the Carrot Greens Salad would be a great recipe for my arsenal!

  • mrscahughes  on  December 15, 2018

    I can't choose just one thing it all sounds so good!

  • Sabrina5000  on  December 16, 2018

    Would love to make the claypot noodle soup.

  • RickPearson54  on  December 17, 2018

    sweet and sour ribs

  • Sfgordon  on  December 19, 2018

    I'd try stir-fried beef with mint.

  • ejsmith  on  December 21, 2018

    Clay pot noodle soup

  • Sand9  on  December 21, 2018

    Home Style Sweet & Sour Pork Ribs x

  • Sakurajima  on  December 21, 2018

    Kunming-style clay pot noodles!

  • yd1556  on  December 22, 2018

    Stir-tried beef with bamboo shoots and fresh mint sounds 👍

  • sheridarby  on  December 22, 2018

    Potato pancake with chili powder

  • ltsuk  on  December 22, 2018

    Lijiang baba filled flatbread

  • carajanehunter  on  December 23, 2018

    They all sound delicious, mouth watering, stir-fried red-cooked beef with garlic, chiles, and scallions, mmmm

  • zeenie  on  December 23, 2018

    Potato pancake with chili powder

  • chimpbob  on  December 23, 2018

    Home style sweet and sour pork ribs x

  • DimensionAEB  on  December 23, 2018

    The Babao-style breakfast noodles.

  • kitchenclimbers  on  December 26, 2018

    breakfast noodles!

  • Karla123  on  December 26, 2018

    Vegetable momos!

  • rosalee  on  December 28, 2018

    Chrysanthemum greens salad is intriguing!

  • floridagld  on  December 29, 2018

    Huge fan of Georgia all ready. We would like to make Stir-fried red-cooked beef with garlic, chiles, and scallions first up.

  • lselke  on  December 29, 2018

    Breakfast noodles with pork and sweet-spicy sauce sounds really intriguing.

  • Nhcookingdiva  on  December 30, 2018

    Clay pot Noodle Soup!

  • TrishaCP  on  January 1, 2019

    Stir fried red cooked beef

  • hillsboroks  on  January 1, 2019

    Pork with Garlic Scapes and Sichuan Peppercorn Oil

  • DarcyVaughn  on  January 2, 2019

    Dali-style yellow stewed chicken

  • tarae1204  on  January 3, 2019

    Home style sweet and sour pork ribs

  • Amandaspamanda  on  January 4, 2019

    Stir-fried red-cooked beef with garlic, chiles, and scallions – stir frys are the best!

  • PennyG  on  January 5, 2019

    Kunming-style barbecue

  • Livia  on  January 6, 2019

    Bok choy and ginger soup sounds warming for the wintery nights

  • rsgrandinetti  on  January 6, 2019

    I would like to try the Dali-style yellow stewed chicken

  • Nrshelley  on  January 8, 2019

    Steam pot chicken with ginger and goji berries

  • Kduncan  on  January 9, 2019

    Lijiang "baba" filled flatbreads: sweet nut and sesame filling

  • blazin  on  January 11, 2019

    Stir-fried ham with chiles – a favorite dish at a favorite restaurant in LA!

  • sywcindy  on  January 12, 2019

    Would love to try Tibetan noodle soup!

  • orchidlady01  on  January 14, 2019

    Home-style stir-fried pork with garlic chives

  • jigglesfrog  on  January 15, 2019

    Grandma's potatoes

  • SunkenSouffle  on  January 15, 2019

    Claypot noodle soup sounds nice- going to need to do some major experiements with this book- sooooo many pork recipes… time to start fiddling in the kosher kitchen! 🙂

  • Shelley.b  on  January 15, 2019

    Clay pot noodle soup

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