When I see a yellow pepper and a red pepper, my instinct is the red one is the more spicy and dangerous one. Westerns, with my upbringing, are more familiar with the big and slightly spicy bell peppers with bold colors and flavors. Rarely will we associate a yellow pepper with heat and spicy.
Yet, when I had the famous Hunan steamed Fishhead at Di Shui Dong, with half yellow and red peppers, I was in for a ride. This lake fish, prepared split open, features the bright diced peppers sprinkled over the fish. Di Shui Dong prepares the fish with in mind those who can take the spiciness and those who want to take it up a notch. The fish, served in a light shallow broth, enough to keep it moist, is the title dish, the headliner, and the money-shot. Served last, the peppers separates the boys from the men. I was quickly warned by my two Hunan dining companions that the yellow ones were to avoided. Heck, Miss. Y wouldn’t go near the the yellow side, and she loves to eat spicy foods. So, I notes and stayed away. Though after a few swigs of beer and an aloof motion toward the dish, my mouth soon rewarded my senses with alarming feeling.
What a dumb foreigner, my friends must have thought. After finishing the rest of my Suan Mei Tang 酸梅汤, I gulp down the rest of my beer. Suan Mei Tang 酸梅汤 is a mild sweet plum drink that offsets spicy flavors, though not as effective as milk. Surprisingly the beer goes down quite well with spicy foods. But after awhile, I was munching on the yellow peppers, as if they were nothing. I know that my lips were on fire soon afterwards.
Earlier in the meal, we started off with the mild and cold sliced pork with garlic. This was specially ordered for my assumingly weak palate. I would have a little of the pork here and there, just to rest my taste buds from the heat.
Next we had spicy duck tongue. As one of the 8 famous cuisines of China, known as Xiang cuisine or 湖南菜 or 湘菜, duck tongue is delicacy favored almost everywhere in China. Personally, I had never tried or even wanted, too. But tonight, I decided to impress my friends of my food eating skills. I tried one, which was small, yet bony. It had little meat, with cartilage in which you spit out. The spiciness enhanced what little flavor there was, since it was more about the texture of the tongue – yes I know it sounds gross
We had another cold dish – the seaweed. Laced with red pepper and seeds, this was quite spicy, but delicious all the same. These three cold appetizer dishes boasted flavor and heat, all while being served cold.
Then with the hot dishes, we began with spicy pig’s feet. With little meat, with lots of fatty skin and cartilage & collagen, this is dish more about flavor and texture, rather than about filling. With red peppers and a rich thick sauce, this dish is served in a bowl. Diced up into bite sized pieces, after eat bite, you’ll need to spit out the remaining bones. I doubt many westerner would like this dish. I only had a couple pieces myself, since I am still getting used to the idea about eating for the idea of texture.
Next we had the famous spicy frog legs. While simmering over a flame on the table, this offering had colorful red peppers, diced green onions, yellow ginger, and chopped frog legs. As the saying goes, it tasted like chicken.
Right before the spicy fishhead, we had the spicy pork with snow peas. This was a pretty good dish. It was standard, if not spectacular.
I am not sure how I survived with all these spicy dishes, but I realized my tolerance for spicy foods is now pretty high. You could say this is similar to one’s tolerance of alcohol. I think I can take Mexican and Korean foods a lot better now.
What to Order: Spicy Steamed Fishhead
What not to Order:
Price Range 1 $/¥/NT