The vibrant exuberance of ethnic Dai food from Yunnan
Slurp&Sip is a cheerful bistro that specializes in exotic southwestern food from Yunnan Province.
Opening this new restaurant on Yanping Road after operating Slurp (a Yunnan eatery focusing on street food) for a few years is a natural step for Niu Yun and her partners.
Niu, who hails from Kunming, Yunnan Province, opened Slurp in 2014 after studying in London.
"At that time there weren't many choices for Yunnan food, and I think the province has so much tasty food and such a diverse food culture to dig into that I could bring to Shanghai," she said. "After meeting a few good friends who also love Yunnan cuisine, we decided to open a simple Yunnan eatery focusing on street food to start with, introducing Yunnan rice noodles and street snacks I used to buy every day after school."
Over the years, Slurp has moved a few times and the partners opened another restaurant called PILIPALA, focused on food of the Dai minority.
"When we saw the location on Yanping Road, we felt it was time to create an upgrade to Slurp. We wanted to keep the concept of street food but add a cocktail bar so our customers can explore Yunnan with both food and drinks – a more complete experience," Niu said.
"As a foodie, I love to dine in a bistro with a comfortable, chill and genuine vibe. This is the feeling we wanted to bring to Slurp&Sip."
The menu pays homage to Niu's origins with a prime focus on Dai flavors.
"My mom is Dai, so I remember every time she brought me back to her hometown the food really made a strong impression. From how they cook, the ingredients they use to the presentation, they are all very special to me. Dai food is all about fresh and mixed ingredients, as well as natural and original ways of cooking," she said.
"I feel local diners shouldn't only know about crossing the bridge between rice noodles and steampot chicken when we talk about Yunnan food. We have such a diverse culture with so many different minorities, so I decided to start with the one I'm the most connected with," she added.
Dai cuisine is fresh and vibrant, characterized by a combination of fresh herbs, chilis and acidic elements. It incorporates lots of great produce from the province's southernmost prefecture.
Dai food is chock full of barbecue items often seen in night markets, such as roasted lemongrass stuffed tilapia, roasted chicken and roasted pork neck with Dai spices, all of which grace Slurp&Sip's menu.
"These are our most popular dishes, and they truly represent Dai food. We marinate the chicken and fish with mixed herbs and spices from Yunnan, then add the most signature ingredient from southern China – lemongrass – to make it extra aromatic," Niu said.
Other delicious dishes to try include sour papaya wok fried with chicken, tilapia with passion fruit, ginger, garlic, chili and Thai coriander, and beef tripe wok fried with pickled leek flowers.
For the "sip" part, Niu designed the cocktail menu with Filipino bartender Brian, who previously worked with Niu at Jin Hua (a Yunnan eatery based on old Daliah).
"His Southeast Asian background perfectly matched the Yunnan vibe. So when we talked about the new cocktail menu, we decided to make every drink with at least one Yunnan twist, from flavor to ingredients to the base alcohol. For example, the Coriander Drew is a big, brave move, as the team knows some people will hate it but many will love it," she said.
The wine selection is mostly organic and natural.
"We discovered the bold/extreme/sometimes weird tastes of natural wines pair with our food very well, like the over-fermented flavor is similar to some of the pickles we use in our dishes. People always think traditional wine is not the best accompaniment to Chinese food, but we want to make our customers try this new and interesting combination we like a lot."