Friday, October 31, 2008

Hunan hoedown in Shanghai!

It’s all too much to keep up with. I’m in Hong Kong, still posting about Shanghai. Our last two nights were spent exploring the outer limits of edible pleasure and pain at the two Shanghai restaurants that the local cognoscenti consider the pinnacle of Hunanese cooking. Easily as fiery as Szechuan cuisine, these Hunan style restaurants were temples of flavor and fire. Guyi Hunan and Di Shui Dong both have their followers. They were very different in style. Guyi Hunan was slightly more refined, in spite of the large table of ex-pat and local company people right next to us who were exploring their drinking capacities via rice wine chugging contests. Luckily we left before the projectile vomiting began. I had feeling of schadenfreude thinking of them trying to work the next day. Poor bastards! Guyi’s food was excellent. We started with the soft tofu with salmon (top left photo), a beautiful and delicious beginning. Next up were a plate of Hunanese-style clams, a hot pot of pork short ribs (below) and a plate of braised eggplant that were sublime (right). The clams were incredible, although a few too many empty shells (??!). The pork was fall off the bone tender and its sauce filled our mouths with palate tingling savoryness. The eggplant actually was the highlight of the meal. Perfectly spiced, the texture was firm yet soft, the accompanying veggies spot on. Great stuff!

The next night the guts and glory of Hunan made an appearance. Di Shui Dong (named after a cave in Mao’s home village of Shaoshan) was much more casual and relaxed than Guyi (although Guyi was perfectly comfortable). The staff was awesome, really friendly in that regular people kind of way. We placed our order for way too much food as is my usual custom at places I may never see again. I had no idea what we were in store for. I knew it was trouble when w took the first bite of her food and her eyes went wide with that “oh shit are we in trouble” look! This was like being taken out back by the locals and having then go “You think you know spicy? Well, you don’t know shit!” We only had two dishes that didn’t have the sweat literally dripping off my forehead, a braised mushroom and greens plate, and a signature dish of Hunan, cumin seed & chili (of course!) crusted pork ribs (right) that were amazing…..REALLY amazing! I'll be stealing that idea. The two hot pots, one braised frog (which are bony little SOB's) and one tofu, left our palates crazy from the heat. They were actually fabulous…complex, very intense, delicious…but so fucking hot from the fresh chili’s and whatever other pain inflicting ingredients they put in them that after about two bites I was chugging Tsingtaos as fast as they would bring them. One of those things that as I’m crying in pain, it is so good I can’t help but shovel more into my mouth in a sort of masochistic feeding frenzy.
The Devil's cauldron of pain and goodness that was the braised frog hotpot

All in all, even with the pain factor, Di Shui Dong gets my vote. w preferred Guyi Hunan. Talk abut a win-win, this was two nights of incredible dining!

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