If you’re looking to celebrate the Lunar New Year with Chinese food, you’ll likely end up with Cantonese or Szechuan cuisine, those most popular in the city. But if Erika Chou has anything to do with it, New Yorkers will soon be adding to their repertoire the flavors of China’s Yunnan province.
Erika, who studied art and formerly worked in fashion photography, was introduced to the Yunnan culture and flavors several years ago on a trip to China. By 2012, she made the decision to start a restaurant celebrating this province and opened Yunnan Kitchen on the Lower East Side with esteemed chef Doron Wong in the kitchen. This past fall, Erika reopened the restaurant as Yunnan BBQ and revamped the menu with Doron to offer small plates like a Chrysanthemum Salad made with asian pear and large, barbecue-focused plates such as Pecan-Smoked Chicken Wings and Yunnan Curry Beef Brisket. Earlier this week, Erika and Doron’s efforts were celebrated when the New York Times included Yunnan BBQ in an article discussing Chinese-American chefs and restaurants.
On the eve of Chinese New Year, 6sqft spoke with Erika to find out what drew her to the Yunnan province, how her background in art helps as a restaurateur, and to find out about a misconception surrounding Chinese food.