This note was written by Devin Corrigan, a WildChina tour leader & travel consultant who recently traveled to Mount Haba on an educational trip. Previously, he blogged about the fascinating lore associated with the mountain and the lively and diverse atmosphere he found in Haba village.
During the first leg of the trek to the summit of Mount Haba, my guide, Xiao He, and I stopped for lunch in a quiet clearing in the pine forest we were passing through. I knew he had brought some food for both of us, but I had a large chicken sandwich packed in my bag in case I needed more fuel for the day.
As we made ourselves comfortable on the ground, Xiao He took out two plastic bags and handed me one. Inside, two massive pieces of fried flatbread that I recognized as baba were folded together, still warm. Baba, a wheat-based staple of the northern Yunnan diet, takes many forms; I’ve had it with tons of sugar cooked inside, and a pork version is popular as well. This baba was plain and lightly fried, giving it a slight crunch. A thin layer of delicious, rich oil on the surface left a pleasant aftertaste I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
He watched me eat for a few seconds and then said, “It’s walnut oil. We have plenty of walnuts! We make the oil from them and put it on the baba.”
“Ziji de,” he said with a grin. Our own.
He tossed me two hard-boiled eggs. “These are the best eggs you can eat. They are from the chickens in my village. A lot of the eggs you get in cities nowadays are no good for you – these ones are fresh, with no additives.”
He was right. The eggs were mouth-watering, with soft, dark yolks and a taste that can only be described as it had been: fresh. The seemingly endless supply of walnut baba complemented the eggs nicely, and, needless to say, the sandwich stayed put.