Saturday, August 18, 2007

Another Hidden Culinary Gem

Taxi drivers here hate going to Gulou Dong, or the Old Bell tower area, which is near Hou Hai. That's because there are many hidden hutongs or narrow alleyways leading to siheyuan, or courtyard houses which have been transformed into restaurants.

And the taxi driver we had tonight wasn't paying attention to the map we showed him. At first he tried to drop us off in the vicinity, but someone who had been to the restaurant before said it was far away and she refused to get out. Finally he got us closer, but not without complaining.

Hidden in an alleyway called Xiaojingchang Hutong is a restaurant called Dali. It's a typical courtyard house, with one side enclosed with air conditioning (thank goodness). And the rest of the diners eat outside (almost in the dark) under the large plants and tiled roofs, with a small fountain running near the washroom. You almost feel like you're in a hacienda in Mexico.

Since we had a large party, we were in the enclosed area and had several tables cobbled together like a banquet table. The restaurant serves Yunan cuisine and one colleague from Kunming said the dishes weren't quite authentic, mostly because we ate western style, with large plates instead of a bowl.

Nonetheless, the food from a set dinner was quite the feast. And only 100RMB a head. Dishes just kept coming and coming to satiate our hungry bellies.

We started with thin slices of Chinese sausage and tofu in soy sauce. This followed with slices of fried cheese (sort of like Mozzarella); stir-fried egg with heads of chives; green papaya salad; deep-fried mint; button mushrooms cooked with cloves of garlic that were wrapped in a banana leaf; fried diced chicken in a bed of chillis and garlic; fried fish; boiled chunks of lamb flavoured in a citrus dipping sauce; prawns cooked with cherry tomatoes and chillis; stems of morning glory stir-fried to perfection into a stringy green mass; cold spicy rice noodles with generous lashings of lime juice; and stir-fried asaparagus.

Most of the dishes were quite spicy, and we washed them down with Dali beer and I also had a mug of lime juice which was so refreshing.

So while we had a horrible experience with the taxi driver, the meal was well worth it. I hope next time getting there won't be such a hassle.

No. 67 Xiaojingchang Hutong
Gulou Dongdajie


ks said...

i dont care about all these culinary gems. when the food is spicy hot and burning my stomach it is no good to me. one of the causes of esophageal and stomach cancer is from too much spicy and preserved food. it is particularly prevalent in the orient.

Anita said...

All this food is making me hungry. I love spicy food and your culinary gems is making me kinda want to visit China. But only kinda.