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The Rice Killer

Refresh your summer palate with some Yunnan cuisine


The Rice Killer

Refresh your summer palate with some Yunnan cuisine


Heisanduo (黑三剁, literally “three minced ingredients in black” )—a stir-fried mixture of minced pork, black Yunnan pickled cabbage, and red and green peppers is known as the “rice killer”, one of the best Chinese dishes to be paired with rice and a horrible name for a super-villain. With a pepper fragrance, it’s crispy, juicy, and a touch tangy, the perfect dish for foregoing the cheesy summer foods and stimulating and refreshing the palate.

Heisanduo is a common local dish that can be found in almost every restaurant serving Yunnan cuisine. Although not listed in the “Eight Schools of Chinese Cuisine”, Yunnan food is a welcome addition to the plates of picky Chinese foodies with its mild flavors, natural ingredients, exotic nature, and cheap price.

Located in southwestern China and bordering Myanmar, Vietnam, and Laos, Yunnan, literally meaning “south of the clouds”, is proud of its diverse ethnic groups and the varied cuisine that comes with it. The mild climate and ample sunlight help grow the famous fruits, vegetables, and spices so prevalent in Yunnan cooking, with tastes similar to those found in many Southeast Asian dishes. Dai cuisine (傣菜) stands out among the many ethnic foods in Yunnan, with dishes that highlight tangy and spicy flavors, often relying on different types of wild fungus and greens to form a totally new style. The most famous ones are probably the lemon-grass grilled fish (香茅烤鱼) and pineapple rice ( 菠萝饭), which is distinctively different from the Thai version as it’s sour-sweet and oil free.


The key ingredient of heisanduo is the Yunnan specialty pickled kohlrabi (a distinctive type of cabbage), which also goes by the name “rose turnip cabbage” (玫瑰大头菜). The name “rose” comes from the rose sugar (玫瑰糖) used to pickle the kohlrabi. A tradition in Yunnan’s capital of Dali among the Bai ethnic group is to collect the rose petals in their gardens in the spring, mix them with sugar, honey, green plum juice, and salt and set it for two weeks to make this special sauce. Sealed for three months, the rose turnip cabbage is done. To get this delicacy, try the pickle section of Chinese supermarkets. If you see black chunks of pickles there, you’ve found it.

The alternative version of this dish is hongsanduo (红三剁) or “three minced ingredients in red” in which you switch the black kohlrabi for red tomatoes. The resulting taste may be weaker but equally delicious.

All the ingredients of heisanduo are finely chopped. The pork should not be greasy and the flavor of the meat and peppers should flow into the kohlrabi. Perhaps one of the most amazing things about this dish is that, even though it’s a minced mix of flavors, each taste seems distinct the moment you put it in your mouth.

As the “rice killer”, it is best served with a bowl of boiled rice, but if you’re having it in summer, you might want to pair it with a cool, crisp lettuce wrap and a glass of refreshing plum wine.


Remove the seeds and stalks from the green and red peppers.


Dice the kohlrabi and the peppers.


Add three tablespoons of vegetable oil into the wok and put on medium heat.


Stir fry the minced pork until it’s brown and slightly crispy.


Splash in one tablespoon of cooking wine and one tablespoon of light soy sauce. Stir well until fragrant.


Quickly stir in the diced peppers and pickles and mix them well.


Switch off the heat and transfer to plate.


Wrap with lettuce leaves or serve with a bowl of rice.

“The Rice Killer” is a story from our newest issue, “Romance”. To read the whole piece, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the iTunes Store.