Yunnan sounds like one of China’s most interesting provinces, tucked away in a corner of this vast country between the borders of Burma, Laos, Vietnam and Tibet and the enormous province of Sichuan. I’ve never been there, but if the food at Yunnanese restauarant Lost Heaven is anything to go by, I’m missing out on a major culinary adventure if I don’t go. Soon.
The food of Lost Heaven is layered with geographical clues. Some of it barely resembles Chinese food at all – take a prawn curry in the style of the miao ethnic group for example. Large, sweet, tender prawns are surrounded by a fresh-flavoured tomato, ginger and garlic sauce very reminiscent of Indian tamatar shorba. A Burmese inspired aromatic beef shank curry is full of the scents of cumin, coriander seed and a touch of cassia, flavours not commonly found in Chinese dishes. Other dishes feel more familiar – a whole black cod steamed in a table top fish steamer and covered with a layer of crispy fried garlic, black beans and shallots, or pork-flavoured rice wrapped in a banana leaf.
Their specialty dishes include ingredients unique to Yunnan – dried Yunnan fungus, preserved banana flowers, Yunnan pu’er tea and pomegranate flowers. This last looked spectacular served in a cold shredded vegetable dish, and the flowers have an interesting texture.
Since the weather has turned attractively warm Lost Heaven have opened a rooftop terrace looking out towards the Bund. So may I recommend you start there with a refreshing cocktail before making your way downstairs for an incredible meal. Start with Yunnan herb flatbreads with tomato chutney, then just work your way through the menu, tasting Burma, Vietnam, Tibet and Sichuan as you go.
Lost Heaven at the Bund, 17 Yan’an Dong Lu, near Sichaun Lu