When you head toward Daijiacun (Dai
Family Village) Restaurant, you get the sense early
on you're about to experience a place with character.
From the main street, you turn into a narrow alley and
go through an arched gate, much like the one in front
of a traditional walled village. Upon entering the restaurant
you are greeted by a three-piece band with crashing
drums and cymbals. Once inside the main dining hall
the show really begins.
Strands of metallic Christmas garland
deck the halls, and live entertainment a la Andrew Lloyd
Webber fills the aisles, ranging from not-so-authentic
Yunnan dancers to a piercing bird-call solo played by
a pot-bellied man.
Daijiacun's kitsch appeals equally
to locals and tourists. The place is packed with families,
work units and groups of beer-guzzling Beijing homeboys
gemen'r. One also has to give the restaurant credit
for trying to create a festive venue, whereas the activity
at most eateries in Beijing is limited to watching fish
and turtles in murky tanks await their fate. The live
show here - which offers the chance to join in (think
conga line full of Chinese people) - has a certain drunken
Luckily, Daijiacun's food is categorically
tasty and superbly presented. From rice served out of
bamboo stalks to soup simmering in coconut hulls, the
eyes can't help but be dazzled. All of these decorative
devices reflect traditional Yunnan food and customs,
with a specific focus on the Dai, an ethnic minority
in southwestern China closely related to the Thais just
across the border.
No Dai culinary experience would be
complete without Crossing the Bridge Noodles (guoqiao
mixian). The story behind this colorful name dates back
to ancient times when a scholar, who was studying to
pass his civil service exams, isolated himself on an
island. His wife would dutifully bring him food, crossing
over to the island by means of a wooden bridge. But
the meal would be cold by time she arrived. So she devised
a soup with a layer of chicken fat on top that would
retain heat over a long period of time. This way the
scholar had hot food and he went on to pass his exams.
Although "Crossing the Bridge" at
Daijiacun is not among the restaurant's stronger dishes
(it's basically chicken noodle soup), it is filling,
brimming over with hearty noodles and fresh vegetables.
The dish is listed on the menu as Stewed Yunnan Rice
Flour Noodles in Clear Soup (shaguo mixian).
Another traditional delicacy is Yunnan
Ham Cooked in Bamboo (zhutong yuntui). This carnivore's
delight is a toothsome combination of Canadian bacon
and chipped beef. Chewy, but thinly sliced and oozing
with flavor, this relatively cheap dish (RMB35) can
serve as a filling appetizer or a complement to the
Vegetarians will also be pleased by the wide selection
of meatless entrees, including White Rice Cooked in
Bamboo (zhu tong xiang mi fan). The menu also features
two pages of mushroom dishes. The jizong mushrooms were
For dessert, the Eight Treasures
Pineapple (boluo babaofan) is highly recommended. It
is served in a hollowed-out pineapple with the top removed.
Inside is a delectable, gooey concoction of rice and
sugar, satisfying the sweet tooth in most of our party.
There is a full range of dishes for
the more adventurous to try. Snake - while not so exotic
by Chinese standards - makes an obligatory appearance
in the forms of blood and bile mixed with Chinese high-octane
grain alcohol, as well as venom and meat served at the
table. Those looking for something even more exciting
might want to try the Crisp Queen Bee Embryo (xiangsu
fengwang tai) or the Crisp Bamboo Stick Insects (xiangsu
zhuchong). But these delicacies do not come cheap with
price tags at RMB400 and up.
How much of Daijiacun's fare is truly
Yunnan or Dai in origin is debatable. But you will not
be disappointed by the food, and judging by the crowds
whooping it up and clapping slightly out of time to
the music, you might even temporarily suspend your taste
in entertainment and find yourself leading the conga.
3501 Guandongdian Nanjie, West Gate, Chaoyang District
Tel: 6508-9186, 6594-2455
Hours: 11:30 am-2:30 pm, 5:30 pm-9:30 pm
Food: ** Ambience: ** Service: ** Cost: YY