Dinner at Dragon Brother's

Updated: 2011-09-18 07:18

By Lee Hannon (China Daily)

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In a society where a typical greeting literally means "have you eaten today", it is no wonder in southwest China's chili belt, the undiscovered cuisine of Guizhou is fast becoming a mecca for food connoisseurs.

Nestled in the lush mountains surrounding the capital's Guiyang airport hides an oasis of taste - so fresh, no words have ever been written about it in English.

But word of mouth spreads fast, and in this part of the world people are willing to travel hundreds of miles to discover what locals have been savoring for years.

The car park alone of Long Da Ge, one of Guiyang's top 10 restaurants, is testament to the popularity of their signature spicy chicken dish and evidence of Guizhou's hunger to become a rising tourist destination. BMWs and Mercedes shine next to rusty farmer's trucks and bicycles outside this popular eatery in one of China's poorest provinces.

"I wanted to create a unique traditional dish that is popular with all members of society," says owner Du Jiayun.

Du, 46, opened the restaurant in 2003 on a desolate piece of land enshrined by fir and pine trees. His dream was to create an affordable place that offered great taste and good service.

"I wanted customers to feel comfortable and enjoy good local spicy food regardless of if they are rich or poor," he said.

The dream worked. Now, several years later, customers return to enjoy the famed spicy chicken marinated in chili, garlic and ginger and cooked in oil from vegetables grown in nearby Huishui County, the home of the famous black rice, dubbed black pearl.

The dish, served in a large pot and simmering with spice, is so hot those not so tolerant of chili soon reach for the province's well known rice wine to cool their flaming taste buds. Accompanying plates of tofu in tomato sauce, vegetables and herbs also help to cool the effects from the sweat-inducing concoction, washed down with even more rice wine, of course.

The translation of the restaurant's name Long Da Ge says it all. Dragon big brother. And it lives up to the legend.

But the ambitions of Long Da Ge and other businesses in Guizhou are not so mythical. The arable land and lush scenery is the jewel in the crown as Guizhou attempts to transform itself from pauper to prince in China's fairytale rise.

Numerous restaurants across the province are cropping up, offering their own spicy signature as part of Guizhou's bid to be seen on the tourist map.

And in a culture where food and the talk of it often punctuate every conversation, Long Da Ge is proof that the province is sure to find its voice.

You can contact the writer at sundayed@chinadaily.com.cn.

Dinner at Dragon Brother's