On a rare Friday date night, we found ourselves eating possibly the most unromantic food known to man. Hunan food at Di Shui Dong (滴水洞) in the French Concession.
And whilst we knew that Hunan food is hot, we walked away realising that dry hot (干辣) which is typical of Hunan food (as opposed to a Sichuan numbing hot) is pretty bad ass. No pun intended with my choice of word just then.
When it comes to Hunan food, Di Shui Dong is one of a few more famous Hunan places in Shanghai. The restaurant is unpretentious and incredibly busy and having not made a reservation, we waited a good 40 minutes for a table to free.
We passed time waiting browsing through the menu, wondering which hot food option to pursue.
Everything on the menu basically is hot so to counterbalance, we started off with some cold dishes because temperature cold dishes surely couldn’t be that hot right?
A cold tofu with chilli and century egg had a good amount of kick without being overpowering. The century egg had an added cooling benefit which relieved our mouth from the spice (more about that later). Crispy pigs ears were lightly chilli but nothing special.
We were slightly disappointed when we were brought Di Shui Dong’s famous cumin spiced pork ribs. They looked lifeless and dry. One bite of them and we immediately recognised that they were stone cold. Upon complaining the wait staff were actually really good and quickly arrange for a new dish to be cooked. When the new dish came out, it looked much better. Given the fame of this dish, we almost expected fall off the bone goodness fried and cumin spiced. What we got instead were dry, slightly tender ribs with little flavour, fried and doused in cumin spice. For a dish that has been voted a top dish to eat in Shanghai, it did not at all deliver.
We also ordered a smoked tofu chilli hotpot which was a standout. Upon first bite, the chilli was not at all severe. As the hot pot continued to bubble, the flavour became more and more concentrated and we really began to feel the heat hit our internal organs. You know how you know it’s gonna hurt you after but you do it anyway? That’s exactly how we felt eating it, as we could feel the burn building but it was so damn delicious we ate it anyway.
This is the after. Check out that pile of chilli.
Needless to say, after dinner, we walked to meet some friends for cocktails and started to feel the burn. So much so that even cocktails and champagne couldn’t settle our burning body.
Would I recommend Di Shui Dong? It’s alright I guess. I have a feeling even though the hotpot burned us, the heat levels have very much been tailored towards the Shanghai palette. Compared to other Chinese cuisines, Hunan is far from favourite and given the lack of stand out dishes, we will likely try one of the other relatively famous Hunan places in Shanghai before returning to Di Shui Dong.
Di Shui Dong (滴水洞)
5 Dong Ping Rd/ 东平路5号