The Dunhaung Restaurant
By: Daniel Otero
Elements crisscrossed the Silk Road all the way from India, to Tibet, directly into China and then landed on the mountains steps of Gansu Province.
That was when I had this intense need for something different.
When I originally moved to Sichuan, I began looking into the different Western Chinese-culinary experiences.
This place in truth holds great promise with its gastronomy.
But something quite extraordinary happened to further develop my senses. A new restaurant opened in the local neighborhood of Qingyang, Chengdu. Decorated by camel figurines. At the entrance, the statue of a stag came as a wonderful good luck greeting, and desert colored-pastel paints covered marvelously its walls. It felt intensely like a beautiful sunshine!
Upon entrance into the restaurant, the place filtered with the lovely smells of spices and condiments.
Then, I was awestruck! Understanding that it was to be a cultural and extraordinary experience.
Dunhuang cuisine came to the table with a tender baby-lamb stew.
Several pleasures which lovingly came with the stew were its tasty potatoes, green peppers, onions and its deliciously-large noodles. In this part of China, lamb and beef are the main staples and proteins on the table. And in truth, the lamb was rich and tender. I soon became addicted to it, and savored every bite till I ended the stew!
Another thing that changes from the traditional-Chinese cuisine of these parts is the lack of rice. In this restaurant, as well as the region, its important to accompany the main dishes with buns and breads. Yes, they have this intense love for wheat!
It was even better with the extra-spicy vegetables served! It was predominantly cucumbers, strongly glazed with chili.
It was special! From the way a person used the chopsticks with its extended wooden portions to the small bowl to enjoy its succulent dishes.
Service later became more enriched with a gorgeous red-watermelon juice, to cool down from the heat of these delicious platters.
After, there was a serving of milk, which tasted more like a sweet yogurt to enhance this totally new-gastronomic adventure.
Then came the bread like manna from the sky. It was made without eggs, but baked in elements like: flour, chives, sesame seeds and spring onions.
I was taken by surprise [but in a good way] from all the new tastes which encircled my palate.
As I closed my eyes and tasted. From Sichuan, I was transported to the mountains of Dunhuang and the over 700 caves with majestic grottoes.
It was really superb. Feeling that the restaurant honored its name, culture and traditions.
The service wasn’t very matured or professional. But still those whom served–served with heart and a realness that made a person feel like home. It wasn’t over done in any way…
Dunhuang is part of Gansu. Hot as can be in its desert regions and with deep cool-mountain caves. Inside these caves are the ancient frescoes painted of what we might call spiritual ‘angels’ and Buddhas to protect the believers’ in their paths. Most likely, supernatural beings decorate the top ceilings of these caves.
Why do I mention the above paragraph? Well, there’s a unique truth. The manager of the restaurant proudly gave my mate and I a tour of all four stories of this exquisite building.
Noticing everything in its details and decorations. It showed the traditional instruments of that region, small statues of the local wildlife, Buddhas and a fresco on the ceiling of the top floor.
Nice, really nice!
One reason to live on this side of the world… The culinary and provincial ways of life are always in great abundance.
For me, it was a first to try this marvelous Dunhuang experience and one I’ll be soon repeating with warm anticipation!