Yunnan, China is not a place you’d typically expect a YouTube star to live.
The province, located in south-west China, near the border of Myanmar, is populated with rice pastures and snowcapped mountains, three famous rivers and a dramatic gorge.
It has a natural beauty unrivalled by nearly anywhere else in the country, and hosts a stream of visitors every year — mostly from China — who come to get away from the bustling cities, gawk at the diverse landscape and mingle with the locals.
Among these locals is Dianxi Xiaoge, a self-described “local Yunnan girl” who uses a somewhat unconventional method to convince the rest of the world to come and visit her hometown.
Meet Dianxi Xiaoge
“I film seasonal ingredients, special local products, really anything that reflects the uniqueness of Yunnan cuisine,” Dianxe explains on her YouTube channel’s ‘About’ page.
On the channel, Dianxi, or “Apenjie”, shares videos of herself patiently preparing delicacies and showcasing the surrounding Yunnan countryside. And over three million people tune in to watch it.
The food, which is chronicled through days or even months of preparation, is inspired by daily meals she makes for her family.
Dishes include this Yunnan Bai special cured “blown” pork liver with spicy sauce. Or this lard-sealed pork, the fascinating demonstration of which clocked up over eight million views on the platform in three weeks.
Dianxi’s videos start from the very beginning of how the meal is made: in the sweeping fields, where she harvests pumpkins to make a steamed basket with pork ribs, or in her courtyard, where she whips branches to extract the beans to make tofu.
Watching her do it is oddly soothing, not just because of the gentle nature of her methodical chopping or the reflective backing track, but the suspenseful nature of the recipes.
The cooking is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, and it’s a thrill to wait and see for what happens next. In contrast to other cooking shows where you have a pretty good idea of what the end result will be, Dianxi’s demonstrations leave you (comfortably) on the edge of your seat.
Even when Dianxi made her grandparents hamburgers, a meal she said they’d only ever seen on television, it’s fascinating to watch how she approached it. To give you an idea, she homemade tomato sauce from wild tomatoes that she picked from her garden.
Makes you seriously rethink that squeeze bottle of Masterfoods in your cupboard (as well as every other decision in your life).
Take Me To Yunnan
In the year or so since her channel seemingly sprung out of nowhere, Dianxe has racked up a crazy 3.2 million subscribers on YouTube and attracts an average of two million views per episode. Her Facebook page, too, has almost half a million followers.
Dianxi Xiaoge’s runaway popularity proves audiences are intrigued by what traditional Yunnan lifestyle has to offer. The green fields and low-hanging clouds shown in the video give us a quaint, and well-deserved, glimpse into what it must feel like to wake up there.
In fact, we’re keen to jump on the nearest plane and get to work as her sous chef.
Josephine is a staff writer at Junkee Media. You can find her words on AWOL, The Cusp, food she bagsed in the fridge.