In deference to my gong bao ji ding (henceforth known as gong bao) loving fellow blogger in Beijing, Wanbro, I feel I must report on the local supplies of the essential gong bao in Dili.
For those unfamiliar, gong bao is chicken cooked in peanuts with a dash of chilis. The variations are enormous in the amount of peanuts, heat of the chilis, added sweetness and the oft-suspected use of fake chicken (ie soy chicken).
Wanbro has achieved stellar heights in his quest for the perfect gong bao and when attained, his ramblings on the subject are legendary.
The China Town restaurant here in Dili is known to have several Beijingers in the kitchen and this is evident in a number of items on the menu. The jiaozi are an exact replica of what can be found in Beijing, and for us Marathon dim sim loving konnoyzers from Melbourne, jiaozi are an adequate substitute for the real thing. (jiaozi are known as dumplings which may contain a number of ingredients but my own favourite is the pork and cabbage, which emulates the Marathon reasonably well).
As for the gong bao, a bit light on for chicken, a bit heavy on the peanuts and a bit light on for chili. Surprisingly low on sweetness and perhaps lacking that satisfying well-balanced finish. Nevertheless, it came across to an essentially gong bao neutral audience as the pick of the courses.
I tried the other signature dish in my own repertoir (the shredded pork or “zhu rou si”) but it was pale imitation of the genuine article. When I finally get a kitchen, I feel like cooking up a batch of “zhu rou si” and giving the boys a few lessons.
The bill came in at US$7 per head for the banquet-style meal – about 30% less than your typical expat oriented eatery. As for decor, the ever-present white tiles and minimalist furnishings woud give a Salvation Army soup kitchen a run for its money.