Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Dai Pai Dong

Big License Stand is the formal translation but it is usually used to refer to stands which traditionally did not own a license but would open up to serve food after most of the shops had closed. Nowadays though, they are often licensed restaurants that spill out onto the streets which serve basic, affordable food, making it popular for late night meals with late eaters and party goers.

I adore Dai Pai Dongs despite my squeamishness of dark alleys and places close to wet markets (rat phobia). I adore them because of my memories of going there with my father. As a little girl, I did not see my father frequently as he worked long hours often entertaining in the evenings. However once in a little while I would still be up when he came home from work. On those evenings, absolutely ravenous, he'd be looking for a little company while he ate. My mom not being keen to eat so late and with us not having much time to spend with my dad, I was sometimes allowed to go to Dai Pai Dongs with him for a snack. Being allowed to stay up late, walk outside in my pyjamas to go sit outside and eat late at night, was to me, at the time, some of the most exciting and fun times.

My Dad took us to one tonight, across from the Bowrinton Road Market near Times Square and it was much like I remembered, dirty, rundown and delicious.

We started with a dish of bamboo clams fried in black bean sauce. Slightly spicy, with strong preserved black bean sauce, it was perfectly cooked with the sweet bamboo clams.

The second dish to come was the steamed pork with shrimp paste, very salty with a pungent kick from the lavender shrimp paste.

The fish was tender, flaky and almost boneless, cooked with Chinese celery, slivered radish and straw mushrooms.

We had this with fish congee and the fried soy sauce noodles with bean sprouts and chives, sprinkled with sesame seeds. The noodles were delicious, slightly charred and cooked to perfection with plenty of "wok hei", literally breath of the wok, which provides that smoky, slightly charred delicious taste.

For those of you wondering, no, my clothing of choice was not pyjamas this particular evening.

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