Delicious Zhamo reveals Jiangchuan people's wisdom of life


Every Spring Festival, people in many places in Yunnan, especially in Jiangchuan District, Yuxi City, usually like to make a kind of salty and umami food, Zhamo. It is a traditional food with strong regional characteristics, and is listed as the District-level Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection Project.

The word “Zha” refers to two meanings literally, one is the fishes salted with salt and red yeast, the other is chopped vegetables mixed with rice flour, salt and other seasonings. In Jiangchuan, it is made from pork bellies and white radishes.


The time to make Zhamo is usually two weeks around the Spring Festival. In the villages of Jiangchuan, people slaughter pigs for the dishes what they need for the festival, and prepare some pork bellies with dried white radish strips to marinate Zhamo. After seasoning, it will be preserved in big jars, with water poured along the edge, just in case air gets into the jars. When you want to eat it, you can take it out of the jars and steam it. Even if it has been stored for more than one year, it will still be delicious.


In Jiangchuan District, not only women, but also men are skilled at making Zhamo. Zhao Xiaowu is one of them.

Zhao likes cooking since he was a child. He often saw his grandpa and father made Zhamo, and he also helped a lot. With the love of making Zhamo, diligent and studious Zhao studied hard and soon mastered the making skills.


Zhao’s Zhamo has two different types, with meat in or without. The maigre one is made with Chinese toon or eggplant, and the common one is made with pork belly.

According to Zhao, it is easy to make Zhamo. Firstly, wash the pork bellies and remove hair. Put salt and marinate it for more than 24 hours. Then add some spices, like amomum tsao-ko, star anise, fresh ginger and so on, and cook for about 2 hours until the meat is medium well. Secondly, season white radish strips with chili, salt and fermented flour, and boil it with pork bellies in the soup made with sesame oil, brown sugar, chili and so on. Get them out and rub the surface with fermented flour, chili, salt and brown sugar again. Finally, wash and dry several earthen pots, coat the inside with a layer of sesame oil. Put the radish strips and pork meat layer by layer into the pots. Store the pots in a cool place and let them ferment naturally. After two months, you can enjoy it. The best way to cook is steaming, because the meat will become shiny and mouth-watering. It tastes salty and umami, spicy but sweet.


“Zhamo contains the wisdom of many generations, the taste is also improved many times. It is a name card of our Jiangchuan food.” Zhao Xiaowu said.

Zhao runs a restaurant. He tried to sell Zhamo in 1999. To his surprise, customers responded well and the sales were very good. He has improved the quality and enriched the variety all the time to meet the larger market demand. Now, he sells more than 4 tons of Zhamo a year, mostly all over the country.


For more than 20 years, over 10 people have learned the skills of making Zhamo from Zhao. He said, “I have the responsibility to make our traditional skills more refined, so that more people can master the skills, and let more people taste the food.”

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(Editors: Christine, Alison)

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