Colourful Yunnan Restaurant (Carlton) & Yun Nan (China) travel photos

Yun Nan (云南) is a province in the southern part of China consisting of many mountainous ranges and bordering Laos, Vietnam and Burma. It is not only a place with an abundance of rich vegetation and natural resources but also has a well kept historical environment, making it one of the most popular tourism destinations in China. I myself have been there with my family many years ago.

Visiting Colourful Yunnan Restaurant (彩云南 – Cai Yun Nan) on Swanston St in Carlton has really conjured up these lovely memories of my travels, although I don’t quite remember the food we had (as I wasn’t yet a foodie back then). After a bit of research online, I found out that Colourful Yunnan actually moved from Flinders Lane a few months ago and has now renovated and moved into its new home at 680 Swanston St, replacing Mark’s Place Pizza Restaurant that’s all too familiar to University of Melbourne students. Please note, the address on Urbanspoon is wrong and I have since requested a change to the information.

I loved the fact that the menu was full of interesting information on the history and sight seeing in Yun Nan, although most of them are in Chinese. In fact, if you don’t have Chinese knowledge, you might find reading the menu a bit overwhelming, even though the dishes do have English names.

As Yuye and I were both well equipped with Chinese knowledge, the ordering was left to us (or rather just Yuye since I wasn’t hungry that night). We ordered 5 dishes to share between 7 people along with rice which was roughly the right amount.

The first dish to make it on the table was the potato and eggplant stir fry which cost roughly $16. As the restaurant had run out of snow pea sprouts, this was a last minute decision to order as a veggie dish so unfortunately I couldn’t remember the exact name or price. It was however, a surprisingly large and filling dish which tasted quite nice. It was well seasoned, potatoes were just the right consistency – not soggy or too soft. However, we were slightly disappointed that there wasn’t as much eggplant as we thought.

The barbecue pork spare ribs ($19.80) was again well seasoned and just the right sweetness for me. It was however unanimously agreed that it was overcooked which resulted in a rather chewy and dry texture. I was happy that it wasn’t very oily though which tends to be the case with meats in Chinese cuisine.

Everyone’s favourite dish of the night had to be the ‘beef slice, tiger lily buds and vermicelli made from bean starch in a sour soup’ for $24.80. It was a very large dish definitely to be shared between a number of people. The soup was perfectly sour for my liking (although a friend said he like it a bit more sour) and had well balanced flavour. The beef used here was thinly sliced hot pot meat (available from Asian supermarkets) which was not the best cut of meat, although obviously still quite tasty and tender. I just wished there was more soup! It was a cold night so everyone were keen on drinking a bowl of that delicious sour soup that it was gone in an instant. Whatever soup was remaining were all sucked up by the vermicelli (which by the end of the night had grown twice its original size). This dish is a definite must get in my opinion.

Not a favourite of mine was the stir fried pig’s intestines with chilli ($19.80). It was a substantial dish but we all found it a bit too oily and heavy, although taste wise was not bad. It was just out-shone by the other dishes so hardly anyone touched it.

Another dish that was changed at the last minute was this deep fried whole fish with chilli (again not sure of the exact name or cost). We had originally wanted to order the barbecue whole fish with special capsicum fruitescens sauce ($19.80) – I have no idea what that word is meant to mean – but the waiter was quite specific about it being ‘very chilli’ and recommended this new fish dish to us. We obviously didn’t look like a bunch who could handle hotness. 😉

In the end I didn’t enjoy this fish all that much as it was overly salty and was still quite chilli. It was still salty even if you completely remove the skin and the toppings. Shame…

We didn’t order any drinks apart from Arch. His drink was at the top of the drinks menu and it looked like it had sago, coconut juice and was topped with croutons. We all thought this was a bit strange and the waiter said to make sure he drinks it AFTER the bread has been soaked in the drink. Arch didn’t like this idea as soggy bread wasn’t to his liking (not mine either) so he ate them immediately anyway. I never got to try this drink so can’t comment about the taste.

We would have normally ordered ‘Cross Bridge Rice Noodles’ as it’s a very popular and famous dish from Yun Nan but since we had so many people with us, ordering dishes to share seemed like a better idea. If you’re visiting this restaurant, I recommend trying the noodles as well.

Overall we had a good dining experience, even though some dishes were hit and miss and the service was just average (like any Chinese restaurant is really). Being so close to the University of Melbourne, I’m sure they’ll be having a lot of Asian students come in for lunch or dinner.

I managed to dig up a few photos from my travels in Yun Nan so I decided to share a few here. Mind you, these were taken in 2005 so in no way do I still look as young. 🙁 Hope you like them!

According to Wikipedia, roughly 34% of the population in Yun Nan is made up of ethnic minorities and their way of life formed a great part of our tour there.

In the city of Lijiang which is a very old and well kept city in the northwest area of Yun Nan

Part of the mountains clearly visible from the town at Lijiang during sunset. The scene was magnificent, our photos with this measly Pentax Optio didn't do it justice.

The mountains at closer range

Drinking from the freezing cold but very refreshing and sweet mineral water flowing directly from the mountain tops

I bet most of you haven't done this before - riding on the back of a (pretty tame) mountain yak in the middle of this crystal clear mineral water. I was having fun. 😀

Yes that's me dressed like an ethnic minority, it was dad's idea, I swear!

At Shi Lin (Stone Forest), a 'forest' full of tall sharp rocks that look like petrified trees

My brother and I on a very fun swing chair, hanging from a tree thousands of years old in a tropical forest in Xi Shuang Ban Na (西双版纳) which is a county directly bordering Burma and Laos, thus is a lot warmer than the rest of the province.

I'm not sure what this fluffy nocturnal animal is called but it was VERY cute, also in the same rainforest. I only realised afterwards but it was quite cruel how they were treated - woken up during broad daylight for the entertainment of us tourists 🙁

At a water pouring festival of the local ethnic minorities also in Xi Shuang Ban Na

We had the choice of visiting Xi Shuang Ban Na or Shangri-La but the travel agent recommended Xi Shuang Ban Na due to the cold weather in Shangri-la at the time. Yes, for those of you not as good at geography like me, Shangri-la is actually a county in the province of Yun Nan in China (the very northern end). The original name of the county was called Zhongdian and was officially changed to Shangri-la in 2001 to attract tourism. Sorry folks, the real Shangri-la in James Hilton’s book Lost Horizon is still really a mythical utopia, although I guess this Shangri-la can be considered a somewhat of a distant relative.

I would have taken vastly different (and better) photos if I went to Yun Nan again and hopefully I will be able to in the near future. I also realised that back in those days, photos were mainly of people with attractions in the background. Now my photos are full of just scenery. 😛

Question time: When you travel, do you tend to take photos of just scenery and attractions or do you take photos of yourself and your travel companions?

Colourful Yunnan
Phone: (03) 9629 3038
680 Swanston St, Carlton 3053 (corner Swanston and Grattan streets)

Colourful Yunnan on Urbanspoon

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25 comments… add one
  • msihua July 11, 2012, 7:10 pm

    That’s pretty expensive for that cuisine.. but I guess, when you are desperately in need of authenticity, you would pay the price!

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake July 11, 2012, 9:09 pm

      Yeah it is a little expensive actually, portions are reasonable though so I guess we were ok with it and tasted good above all (not all dishes however). :/

  • Winston July 11, 2012, 7:38 pm

    Oh my… What an elaborate, bountiful and elegant Chinese meal. I want to eat EVERYTHING! Most of them are dishes that I haven’t necessarily tried before but am dead sure that I’d enjoy them HEAPS. Thanks for sharing this with us. As for me, I used to take pictures of EVERYTHING when I travel, more quantity than quality cause I want to document every single thing that I see and so just go on a trigger frenzy. But these days I get so lazy and just take photos of food, especially if I’ve been to that place already

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake July 12, 2012, 5:02 pm

      I take photos of everything from scenery to food, or try to without being too annoying to my fellow travelers. I always come back with thousands of photos to go through. 😛 I can see taking photos of every single thing a bit overwhelming and probably unnecessary…I try to take photos of food at the very least anyway. 🙂

  • love2dine July 11, 2012, 9:09 pm

    Very appetizing and delicious! The image on the top makes me crave to try.

  • tastyfoodsnaps July 11, 2012, 10:00 pm

    The drink with croutons on top sure sounds interesting!
    Hot chips with seasoned eggplant, MMM 🙂

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake July 12, 2012, 5:03 pm

      It does doesn’t it…I was thinking of getting one when I saw the drink but the dishes got me distracted…:P

  • Joanne July 11, 2012, 10:37 pm

    Wow that veggie dish sounds really tasty!

    I rarely take pictures of actual people when I travel…just the sights!

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake July 12, 2012, 5:03 pm

      Yeah I don’t ever take photos of people anymore, unless if I travel with my family because they love to do that…my own photos will just have scenery and food. 😛

  • kitchenriffs July 12, 2012, 4:51 am

    Great yak photo! Sounds like a great trip – the photos certainly are swell. And the restaurant sounds OK, although it sounds as if the company was more fun than some of the dishes. I’m with you on dishes that are too oily – they just aren’t pleasant to me (and I like fat!). Enjoyable post and I learned a lot – thanks.

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake July 12, 2012, 5:06 pm

      Haha thanks, I like that photo too. 😛 You might be right, I liked the concept and some of the dishes at the restaurant were good but not excellent, apart from that sour soup one. I’d still go back there since it’s close to Yuye’s friend’s place. 🙂

  • yummychunklet July 12, 2012, 11:18 am

    Spectacular outdoor images!

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake July 12, 2012, 5:04 pm

      Thanks! Although they were quite old and not all that well taken, I guess the scenery spoke for themselves..:P

  • Ming @ sweetandsourfork July 12, 2012, 12:37 pm

    I’m going to have to get on my knees and thank you for this post. My whole family is from Yunnan and my parents have all but torn their hair out when they found that Colourful Yunnan on Flinders lane has closed. Is the cross-bridge rice noodles still on the menu? Definitely give it a go if it still is!

    • Ming @ sweetandsourfork July 12, 2012, 12:40 pm

      Oh haha silly me for not reading properly, I guess you already know how nice they are :p

      • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake July 12, 2012, 4:49 pm

        Wow I didn’t know you were from Yunnan! It’s such a fantastic place, totally loved it when I was there. 😀 And yes the noodles is still on the menu, I’ve tried them in China but not at this restaurant, will definitely have to try it next time I’m there. 🙂 Maybe next time I visit Yunnan I will ask you for some local travel advice. 😛

  • Baker Street July 12, 2012, 2:48 pm

    Great pictures! Looks like you had a fantastic trip! I would want to try the drink with croutons in it! 😉

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake July 12, 2012, 5:07 pm

      I certainly did! Although I think it would have been better if I didn’t go with a travel group, since the restaurants they took us to weren’t the greatest. 🙁

  • Nami | Just One Cookbook July 13, 2012, 3:28 am

    Oh it was a great idea that you tried the special costume! You don’t get to do that often you know. Thanks for the wonderful travel pictures. I enjoyed reading and looking at your photos. Very interesting food – I’ve never tried Yunnan style food before.

  • choux choux August 11, 2012, 1:00 pm

    Oh I love the pics from Yun Nan. You look gorgeous! I have to say when I go travelling it’s mostly of scenery and food and the odd photo of people. 🙂

  • christine November 20, 2012, 2:57 pm

    HI, My name is Christine, I’m Malaysian but currently live in Goldcoast Australia, plan to travel to Yun Nam with my parents next year March, may i know what is the best time to visit Yun Nam? is it ok in March?

    • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake November 24, 2012, 10:54 pm

      Hi Christine! Thanks for your comment. I remember Yunnan as a place that was actually quite warm due to its location. It’s only cold when you go into the mountains in which you might need thick jackets and wooly hats. We visited in December and in most parts of Yunnan it was okay with just a long sleeve shirt and long pants, but we had to wear down jackets in the mountains. In march it should be even warmer so it should be a nice time to visit Yunnan. I’m obviously not an expert at traveling there so I’d look up the local weather before you head there first. Hope this helps. 🙂


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