"I have the simplest tastes. I am simply satisfied with the best." - Oscar Wilde

"I came, I saw, I ate." - Au Gourmand

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dai Cuisine in Kunming (Part 2 of 2)

Once I like something, I cannot just have it once. For the second round of Dai food, I came to傣家塞 (Dai Jia Zhai), located in a food court on Baoshan Jie. The waiters here were all very young and seem not to know anything about their own dishes, and the only recommendation they could give was “Oh, this is very typical.” Not deterred, I relied on an expert – my unfailing instinct for good food.

First dish was sautéed 水香菜 (they were real vegetables this time). Distressingly drenched in oil, I had to tip the dish so that the oil would flow downstream… The vegetables was slightly crunchy, and if not so oily, could have been very tasty.

I do care about my vegetable intake, which is hard when you are traveling, so I ordered another vegetable dish – sautéed banana flowers. Well, you have to do with what you can find. Besides, how could I pass it by? The banana flowers were sautéed in the same oil, so I had to deal with two oily dishes on my hands. What do the banana flowers taste like? I wish I could tell you, but you know, the oil… I liked the texture, however: it was similar to very young bamboo shoots.

The arrival of mushrooms in a banana leaf packet was tantalizingly awaited. Yet, I was instantly alarmed by the oily sheen on the leaf…oh no, more oil… Yes, the mushrooms were again soaked and steamed with oil and herbs. Mind you, the flavor was delicious, but the quantity of oil was just distracting and it only destroyed the dish. Why do they need so much oil in cooking everything? How many gallons of oil do they go through a day? Isn’t it more economical and healthy if they just don’t use this much oil? I suppose I will never know.

For my carbohydrate, I ordered sticky rice cooked in bamboo. It was so subtly sweet that you could mistake it for the natural sweetness of the rice, and maybe it was despite being advertised as the “sweet” version. The fragrance of bamboo was charming.

Then my favorite Dai dish arrived on my table – the grilled fish. A different fish was used this time, but again, it was satisfyingly delicious. The flesh was so tender after being coated with oil and herbs, although they could season a little more evenly. I devoured the fish in no time – from the neck down to the tail (since the fish was missing a head). Seriously, grilling a fish is not hard. I really fail to understand why some to New York restaurants seem to find grilling so very difficult.

Lastly, the grilled stinky tofu came with some spicy looking seasoning. Interestingly, this stinky tofu was distinctly of different “stink” from the Taiwanese version. I had no idea you could ferment the tofu differently, but I guess if you could make so many different kinds of wines from basically one ingredient, the grapes, why not stinky tofu? There must be endless possibilities for the stink, and hey, we may one day have a stink sommelier for the job.

Restaurant Info:
傣家塞 (Dai Jia Zhai): It is on Baoshan Jie. You should be able to find it with no trouble because Baoshan Jie is not a big street.

1 comment:

  1. This's been really interesting...actually haven't heard of the Dai people but I really like the idea of stinky tofu expert...like cheese right? Would the lady like to peruse our stinky tofu cart? Haha.