About Da Lat city, tourists are so acquainted with common street food, such as banh-can (a type of pan cakes with eggs) on Tang Bat Ho street, Mrs. Hung’s pork paste on skewers, or Mr. Cao’s Chinese fresh noodles…
there are excellent unique local dishes that even local people haven’t been
aware of, which is Tam Nguyen ethnic or casually called Ayun’s com-lam (like
khao-lam of Thai or lemang of Malaysian).
14kms away from Da Lat center, not many people want to go that far or be that
curious for a specialty of a remote bistro. Not only far away but the ethnic
also has its own rules that you have to pre-order at least one day with all
information of diners and the owners will inform what time you have to be there
for the meal. You neither can negotiate on timing nor being late. If you arrive
late without any announcement, they will simply cancel your order and if you
stop by without pre-order, you will not have a place to seat.
when food lovers sit on the cool floor made from pine trees, listening to
tempting voices from the kitchen and breathing the totally fresh scented air,
they just feel a total satisfaction of the trip. Their meal includes 3 main
courses – com-lam, BBQ chicken, and grilled pork – and side dishes, which are
escarole lettuce salad, stir-fried sponge gourd with chicken plucks, and rice
of the Mrs. Owner are that “pork first then chicken” and “by hand eating”.
is marinated with grated lemongrass, chopped mint leaves, red chili, and a
special leaf of spice, which never been revealed. Pork with a part of lard is
smashed together with spices, sautéed then grilled until both sides getting
brown. A piece of pork and com-lam should be dipped in a secret green mixture
made from sea salt and wild leaves. The first bite should stun any picky diner
and after that, they all devour this exotic dish in quiet.
Jarai styled grilled pork.
Secret green dipping.
is another main dish of the ethnic. Ayun – the Mr. owner and the cook – goes
pick bamboo tubes by himself. Rice and fresh water are stuffed into the bamboo
tubes, covered by fresh leaves then placed next to the fire to cook. When they
get done, Ayun opens them up, collects cooked rice tubes then grills them again
on burning coals. The outer of the rice tubes is crunchy whereas the inner is
so tender and that makes a perfect rice dish for the meal.
BBQ chicken and com-lam.
diners excitingly having grilled pork, the BBQ chicken is cooling down, enough
for hands to tear it apart. The outer skin is totally golden and crunchy but
the flesh is soft and juicy. Chicken is partially marinated and the green
dipping is the final piece to complete the savor of the dish. It all makes
sense when the Mrs. Owner asked all diners to use hands and fingers for this
ethnic highland-spiritual meal. Chopsticks seem too civilized for this
owner Ayun, Jarai minority, has not only brought all secrets of highland spicy
leaves to his dishes but also carried the whole ethnical influence to the meal.
Even though they sell soft drinks and beer, they still offer all dines free
homemade wine. There are wines for men, women, and even for older. Men wines
are made from wild leaves and fruits as bitter melon, which is still a bit
bitter after one year aged under the ground; women wines are usually from
fruits like passion fruits or plums so they taste sweetly fruity and have good
effects on skin antioxidant, cardiovascular conditioning, and treating back
pain. Diners can ask for refills as many
as they want, more accurately as many as they can take.
Yellow glass is for women and red one is for the older.
this evergreen city with the temperature mostly ranged within the perfect zone,
the most desirable cuisine you could dream of is just sitting there with hot
grilled meat and essential wine of the mountains.
of that, the bistro is well scientifically delicate when serving a
well-prepared meal with all elements: protein, starch, and fiber. After
greasing all fingers and lips with grilled meat, diners would use chopsticks
for stir-fried sponge gourd or a couple of escarole leaves to refresh their
appetite. Or if they feel colder after sitting awhile, a sip of hot congee
should warm them up.
Stir-fried sponge gourd with chicken plucks.
has served that completed meals for years, no more no less. Diners from luxury
cars or backpackers on bikes are treated the same way. And despite their picky
rules, they sometimes have to stop taking orders in peak season because their
kitchen only can handle certain amount of diners. Once on a blue day, Ayun and
his wife had a friendly chat with us, saying, “Both chicken and pork must be
prepared one day ahead so all diners have to call to pre-order. Also it’s best
when it’s hot so diners must arrive on time. Otherwise we don’t serve cold
food. We’d rather have it ourselves.”
On a busy day.
straightforwardness, and typical tastes have been virally branded for Ayun’s
ethnic. Diners from all over the country once have to seek that remote odd
bistro not only to satisfy their curiosity but also to satisfy their appetite
with the exotic yet irresistible flavors of that highland cuisine.
By Thien Thu