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Trout rise in Lijiang

06-28-2010 09:07 BJT

BEIJING, June 26 (Xinhuanet) -- A new delicacy is swimming in the crystal clear, snow-melt streams of Yunnan's historic Lijiang region.

Flaky trout fillet served at Bai Yun, the Banyan Tree Lijiang, features fresh Lijiang trout. (Photo:
Flaky trout fillet served at Bai Yun, the Banyan Tree
Lijiang, features fresh Lijiang trout. (Photo: Chinadaily

Breakfast was a perfectly-baked flaky croissant served with an equally perfect rose made of butter and thick honey. And as we bit into the hot bread, we looked out of the French windows and admired the magnificent peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, scattered with thin powdery snow that glowed in the sunrise.

That was our first meal of the day at the Banyan Tree Lijiang, the world-class resort nestled in the foothills of the Yunnan Lijiang range, at the edge of the ancient city of Shuhe.

The Banyan Tree is an unexpected sanctuary, beautifully landscaped and luxuriously appointed, with carefully crafted water features, pavilions and pagodas that reflect and blend into the natural beauty of the surrounding scenery. It stands like a jewel among the host of attractive inns that stud the Lijiang old towns of Dayan and Shuhe.

It is walking distance to the quaint shops, bustling bars and cafes at Shuhe, but otherwise, you have everything you need to relax within its walled compounds, including tranquil park-like grounds, a spa and choice of cuisines at its restaurants.

Our evening meal was a degustation from the chef at Bai Yun, Banyan Tree's Chinese restaurant. It highlighted the best of local produce, such as the region's famous wild matsutake mushrooms, black mountain goat, a herbal consomm of teal and a memorable fillet of Lijiang trout that was artfully presented.

The trout was an unexpected delight and a surprising delicacy. In fact, it piqued our interest so much that we decided to make an excursion to explore the source of such a delightful fish.

Early morning, our guide and driver picked us up and we set off upwards. The continuous drought last year had taken its toll on the majestic mountain and its peaks were so barely flecked with white that it could hardly be called a "snow mountain". However, its lofty beauty still shone through whenever the clouds parted and we spent the better part of our scenic drive snow-spotting and pointing our digitals at the picture-postcard views.

You need to pay a heritage maintenance fee as soon as you enter the mountain or visit any of its listed attractions. We paid our dues along with the other tourists.

About 10 years ago, research and experiments on trout farming started as part of the sustainable agriculture projects in the region. Barely a decade later, the experiments are seeing unprecedented success and trout farming is now a regular part of the agricultural landscape.

At a scenic spot called the Jade Post Titan which is sacred ground to the Naxi people, we labored over cobbled paths and climbed steeply for about 15 minutes until we reached the trout farms.

Crystal clear waters trickled into a series of pebbled ponds, and we saw our first Lijiang trout.

They were huge - nothing like the sleek, slim trout I'd seen battling the currents in streams in New Zealand or the United States. But they were also beautiful, gleaming in the sunlight as they leisurely circled the holding ponds.

You can have your trout right on the spot, and you can net your own fish, if you have the necessary skills. We left the fishing to the more experienced, and the chef, white toque and all, spotted our fish, caught it and trotted off to his kitchen to prepare it for our table.

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