It’s been some time since US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen left Beijing, and much has been written regarding her work to improve the relationship between China and the United States.
However, despite the political stance, she made her Beijing trip an unanticipated success. She significantly boosted the Yunnan restaurant chain business while also bringing Jian Shou Qing, a unique and highly sought-after mushroom renowned for its unique properties, to the forefront of national attention.
Just after the secretary of the Treasury was able to arrive in Beijing this week, her team was seen eating in Yi Zuo Yi Wang (In and Out). Contrary to the restaurant’s English name, it is not a burger joint. The restaurant chain specializes inunnan food, a renowned regional cuisine in the southwestern region of China, bordering Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar.
The whole thing started when an online food blogger posted about Yellen’s dinner menu on Weibo, the most popular Chinese micro-blogging website.
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“When I walked by their table on my way to the washroom, I slowed down to take a glance at the dishes they ordered,” wrote Weibo member Pan Pan Mao in the post.
The Food blogger said to have seen grilled fish seasoned with herbs and mixed-fried, pickled Yunnan wild greens, potato slices, and chilled rice noodles.
“Very Yunnan, very homey,” Pan Pan Mao observed.
The restaurant quickly confirmed the visit via the restaurant’s Weibo page.
“US Treasury Secretary Yellen was here,” read the message in Chinese.
“Speculating using the timestamps in the news, it is real that she was (to at the eatery) shortly after arriving in China. Our staff members said that she enjoyed mushrooms a lot. She requested four portions of jian shhou qing (a Yunnan wild mushroom species). It was a truly wonderful day.”
Chinese Vice-Premier He Lifeng gestures to US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen during a meeting on July 8, 2023, in Beijing, China.
A hashtag titled “US Treasury Secretary Yellen’s first meal in Beijing is Yunannese” was a popular subject across social media platforms, with the related posts garnering the equivalent of 6 million viewers.
Many people expressed curiosity about who had chosen the restaurant. Some others expressed their delight at the chopstick skills of Yellen and her team’s empathetic decision to serve her her first meal post-flight.
However, the most heated debates focused on the various varieties of the mushroom dish Jian Shao Qing.
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A treasury assistant secretary has confirmed to CNN that Yellen could eat dinner at the restaurant, and she thoroughly loved the experience, particularly the dish of mushrooms.
The source added that Yellen loves going to various establishments, including the popular local ones such as Yi Zuo Yi Wang when she is on the road with her group.
She also loves meeting new people from the countries she travels to over dinner, the person added, pointing out her scheduled lunch with Vietnamese women economists in her present visit to Vietnam and India.
Jian Shou Qing Yunnan’s mysterious mushrooms
Baskets of jian-shou qing mushrooms harvested from the Yunnan forest.
Jian shou qing, literally translated as “see hand blue,” has its Chinese name due to one of its most distinctive characteristics. The inner surface of the fungus is bruised and changes color when you put pressure on it, even during the slicing process.
It’s an umbrella term that refers to the family of mushrooms; however, in Yunnan, Jian Shao Qing is mainly used to refer to the scientific time “Lanmaoa asiatica.”
“It’s a medium- to large-sized mushroom, reddish color on the outside and yellow underneath and looks very similar to some of the porcini mushrooms,” says Dr. Peter Mortimer, a professor at the Kunming Institute of Botany.
“So similar in fact that it is easily confused with local porcini species, often with interesting, or scary, consequences.”
This South African national first arrived in Yunnan in 2010 during an adventure trip and was offered a job at the Yunnan Institute. He has resided in Yunnan and has studied the area’s mushrooms since.
“Lanmaoa mushrooms are considered poisonous as they can be hallucinogenic,” states Mortimer, who spends much of his time at the foot of Yunnan forest looking for mushrooms.
“However scientists haven’t yet discovered the substances that cause hallucinations. The cause remains mystery and the vast majority of evidence is just anecdotal. I know a person who accidentally ate them, and then experienced hallucinations throughout three weeks.”
Mushroom hotpot is an everyday sight in restaurants across Yunnan Province.
The previous year in the year 2000 in the year 2000, the Botanical Society of Yunnan published an updated index of Yunnan’s poisonous mushrooms, including photos of the species and warning the general public. The fungi included in the index was jian Shou Qing, which led to debates over whether the adored mushrooms should be permitted to be sold on the internet and offered in restaurants. Ultimately, their popularity was more important than other considerations, and they’re still readily available.
Despite the name it has earned, Jian Shou Qing is regarded as a delicacy typical for Yunnan residents and a common food item in Yunnan restaurants across China in which the mushrooms are adequately prepared to avoid negative consequences.
Xinhua, the state-owned news agency, even made a report on eating jian safe shou qing on July 10, following the visit of Yellen, which included interviews with Chinese buyers at the Yunnan wild market for mushrooms.
One interviewee said she was negatively afflicted: “You thought you were walking straight but you just fell sideways.”
Explore the gorges, eat bugs, and soak up the history of Yunnan
“I still consume it. I just can’t resist,” another mushroom fan said to Xinhua. “We often ask one person at the table to try one first, and if he is OK, we will follow and start eating.”
The common belief is that you must ultimately boil the mushrooms to eliminate their hallucinogenic properties.
CNN has contacted an outlet in Yi Zuo Yi Wang, where the Yellen’s group reportedly dined. While the staff at the restaurant would not provide any information about the delegation’s visit, they confirmed that all dishes made using jian Shou Qing were cooked thoroughly and adequately.
The repercussions for The effect on the Yunnan Restaurant chain are well-known. In the wake of Yellen’s visit to China, the wild mushroom menu has been sold out in the numerous branches of the restaurant in the major cities of China. The chain announced this in a post on its Weibo posting.
A growing demand for Yunnan dishes
The Yunnan fried cheese is made with fresh goat’s milk and has a unique, firm texture.
The fact that Yellen and her staff went to a Yunnan restaurant shouldn’t be the result of a shock.
Although it might not be so popular in the same way as Cantonese or Sichuanese cuisines in the world, Yunnan cuisine – also called Dian Cai – has long been a favorite restaurant choice across China and has seen a surge in popularity with hip, young, urban Chinese in recent years.
Ng Mung Lam, sous chef at the Shenzhen-based restaurant Ensue Ng Mung Lam, the sous chef of Shenzhen-based restaurant Ensu CNN Travel, that the top-notch quality of Yunnan ingredients has been recognized; however, the sales of these items were previously restricted to the Yunnan public.
“However, with the rise of fine-dining restaurants in China, more chefs are discovering the value of these exceptional ingredients, leading to increased attention and appreciation [to Yunnan food],” Ng says. Ng.
The restaurant was ranked no.31 in Asia’s Top 50 Restaurants list. The restaurant is trying to blend Chinese ingredients with modern cooking techniques. Ng says that it has included numerous Yunnan ingredients in the menu that is currently seasonal.