Thursday, November 9, 2017

Camel Hump and Hoof - Dunhuang

I'd read before-hand that Dunhuang was known for donkey meat and for camel meat, including quick-frying hump and camel hoof. So I contacted one of our guides, Orlando, and asked if she could find a restaurant that served donkey and camel and arrange for a taxi to take us there.

That evening when the rest of our tour group was sitting down for a buffet meal in the hotel, Orlando took us, including Terry and Geneil, on a short walk of about a block and a half to what Orlando translated as the "Happiness and Lucky Restaurant."
Happiness and Lucky Restaurant.
We were shown to a separate room with a big round table and Orlando walked us through the Chinese-only menu. The proprietor and workers spoke no English. 
I ordered two donkey dishes, including yellow noodles with donkey, that Dunhuang is known for, and a large camel dish including quick-frying hump, camel hoof and regular camel meat. Terry and Geneil ordered some more pedestrian food items that I didn't pay as much attention to - I think it included some vegetarian noodles and a chicken dish. 

I previously blogged on the donkey dishes. The slowly cooked donkey meat, in green and red hot peppers, was incredible: sweet, fatty and hot. Perhaps the best dish of the whole trip.
Donkey meat.
The yellow noodles with donkey was tame. The noodles were dull (I'm not a pasta person) and there wasn't much donkey in it. 
Yellow noodles with donkey meat.
Dunhuang has a very large camel population - we heard the number of 10,000. Earlier that day we'd ridden Bactrian camels in the Singing Sand Dunes and I saw a store-front advertising camel meat near there. 
Two-hump Bactrian camels in the Singing Sand Dunes.
Store-front selling camel meat near the Singing Sand Dunes. 
Quick-frying camel hump is a dish where camel hump is cut into pieces or shred and then quick-fried. The pieces of camel are like little round fat fries, slightly crunchy, very fatty and juicy and very good. It had sauteed carrot, red and green pepper and onion in with it. This was also an amazing dish. A little crunch followed by melting, savory bliss. 
Camel hump.
Camel hoof is cleaned and soaked in water until soft, then flavored with seasoning and apparently steamed with chicken for 7 or 8 hours until the bones can be easily removed. The hoof is then cut into pieces, seasoned and braised in a bamboo steamer for 2 or 3 hours. Camel hoof is actually tendon. I only ate one or two pieces of camel hoof. It was very cartilaginous, parts of it virtually impossible to chew and eat. I'm not sure what people see in it - maybe we just got a bad batch. 
Camel hoof.
The camel meat was slowly cooked and good, but did not stand out. It was quite lean. 
Slowly cooked camel meat.
I'd read that camel hump was quite expensive and this ended up being a very pricey meal, especially when you consider it was in China and prices are much less there than in the U.S. Terry and Geneil split the cost with us which was very generous, because my delicacies were by far the largest portion of the bill. They were also good sports in trying everything. In fact, I think Terry may have gone back for seconds on the camel hump. 
I love the presentation of this camel meat. The plate is rimmed by cucumber slices and strategically placed red carnations and red currants. 
This was a highlight meal for me, one I'll remember. Two adventurous foods, some of it extremely good, in an unusual setting which came about in an unusual way. 

1 comment:

  1. All of it--except the hoof--much better than expected. The presentation was amazing too!