If you’ve never had food from the Xinjiang region of China, you haven’t lived. It’s an area in the Northwest of China that borders 8 countries in Central and South Asia. Xinjiang also has the privilege of being on the historic Silk Road – and its cuisine reflects its unique heritage.
For the past 3 days, I’ve been on a business trip in Hong Kong. I’ve been stuck in a conference room in a fancy smancy hotel from 8am to 5pm daily; and although it was educational – I can’t say it was the highlight of my trip. I wasn’t that keen on staying in a hotel since I’m travelling on my own – so I booked an AirBnB instead. My host is a young lady named Fang – who also happens to be a Melbourne Uni alumni like me.
Small world, eh?
Everyone who knows me knows I love food – but Xinjiang cuisine has a super special place in my heart. The food is SPICY, intense and packed with all kinds of indescribable flavours. And so I asked my trusty temporary housemate Fang if there’s a restaurant in Hong Kong that serves Xinjiang Cuisine… and… ding ding ding… she told me about Ba Yi. It’s one of those famous places where you have to book a time slot in advance. And yes – they will kick you out when your time is up. And no – they don’t care if you haven’t finished your meal. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
On the walk to the restaurant from the apartment, I was unable to concentrate any conversation we were having as my mind was focused on the delectable meal we were about to have…
And then we got there. I noticed the truckload of Michelin guide recommendations the moment I walked in – not that I particularly care if Michelin cares, but hey.
For starters, we ordered lamb skewers which were just mmm… mmm… mmm… The lamb was grilled to a smooth, silky and non-gamey perfection. I’ve had lamb skewers before, but these were the best. Hands down. No contest. Lightly flavoured with cumin and God knows what else, it is one of the tastiest things I’ve ever eaten in my life.
And then the veggies came. Can’t say it was particularly special – but you have to get your veggies in – even if you are on holidays. Your colon thanks you.
Then finally – the highlight of the meal arrived. Dapanji (大盘鸡). Dapanji translates to ‘big plate chicken’ – which is exactly what it is. A big plate full of chicken, potatoes, spices, bell peppers, spices, Sichuan peppers, onions, garlic… and a whole host of other ingredients that makes this dish so memorable and just… heavenly.
So we dug in and started eating it – each bite a mouthful of double and triple happiness. The potatoes, the chicken, the veggies, the… oh dear Lord, can anything really taste this good?
Midway through ravaging the dish – the best part arrived – the hand-stretched noodles. Known as lamian, the thick noodles soak up the yummy broth and packs it with flavour so that you can noisily slurp the delicious flavours of one of the most amazing things you’ll ever eat in your life.
I wasn’t done with it – but true to form, the owner kicked us out once our time was up.
Ah well – till next time.