I don’t know if this happens at your place or not, but Ben and I (mostly Ben and sometimes I) get hungry late at night. There times when we do the odd instant noodle before bed or a piece of toast and warm milk. I even make a salad so I don’t feel guilty eating that late, even though it’s so much work at midnight.
Then one night Ben suggest we go out for some “Da Lang” (打冷). What’s Da Lang? Da Lang is a type of meal that consist of small dishes eaten with plain congee late at night. It originated from the Chaoshan region of Guangdong in China. It’s popular all over Hong Kong and Southeast Asia and has started gaining popularity in North American over the last few years. Since we both grew up with families from this region of China, we grew up eating a lot of congee. (This past week actually, I’ve been making Da Lang at home myself, even for breakfast too).
There’s quite a few places in Calgary that do Da Lang, but the best I’ve had so far is at Eastern Fortune Restaurant. This place on the inside is a bit of a dive. It reminds me of the Cantonese style restaurants back in the 90′s where they play music by Andy Lau. You can definitely tell that they haven’t updated this place in a good 15 years or so (maybe they have, but the aesthetic is still the same). But it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, it’s actually nostalgic for me, reminds me of the times my family would go out for dinner and they would totally go to places like Eastern Fortune because you know the food is good and there’s free parking.
This place is generally opened until 4:30pm – 2:30 am everyday (except Tuesdays) which makes it the perfect spot for Da Lang. There’s plenty of free parking in the front and some alley parking in the back.
I will admit, the downfall of doing Da Lang at Eastern Fortune is that the menu is written in Chinese. I’m sure if you ask one of the waitresses to translate for you, they would. But if you happen to have that friend that can read Chinese- just bring them along. :)
We both ordered the small congee (with the additional dried scallop flakes $1.00), for two people the small is a good size but get the large if you have a gang of 3 or more. The dried scallops just adds some extra sweetness to the congee but isn’t necessary.
This is my favourite dish. In Winnipeg, there was a grocery store that would sell whole soya ducks in their BBQ meat section. When we moved to Calgary, we noticed that nearly all Chinese BBQ places don’t sell this. I guess it’s not just popular here, but one thing we love about Eastern Fortune is that they have it. Duck meat is a beautiful thing, it’s basically all dark meat. The soya sauce flavour is not just salty but has a very nice sweet, star anise flavour. It’s balanced with a vinegar dipping sauce that has little bits of pickled sweet radish in the sauce. The salty, sweet, earthy star-anise of the soya sauce with the tang of vinegar sauce just works perfectly together.
We love eating water spinach (aka. morning glory)! Despite it’s look, it’s quite crunchy since the stem of this vegetable is hollow. At Eastern Fortune they generally ask you how you would like to cook your vegetables, but in this case the dish was actually on the menu. The water spinach is stir-fried with spicy tofu which is not the regular block tofu. This type of tofu comes in a jar, packed individually in small squares in salty spicy brine. It’s actually pasty in texture and has a great punch of flavour compared to the standard soft, medium, firm tofu you find at grocery stores and is used more often as a condiment. This is actually a great alternative for your standard oyster sauce/soya sauce stir fry that most people have and is actually quite easy to make at home and great for those who are vegetarians. *Note to self- post Water Spinach with Spicy Tofu Sauce recipe soon.
This is one of my personal favourite dishes here, and can be eaten as is without the congee. It’s crispy on the edges and on the outside and fluffy in the inside. What’s really special about this pancake is not only texture and the oysters, but they also add pickled Chinese radish in this dish. The reason why I mention this is because I’ve eaten many versions of this dish in China and they’re generally more gelatinous and soft- sometimes crispy and is dipped in straight up fish sauce. This is my favourite version of this dish, and yes I do think it’s much better than the ones you get in China. You dip it in this sweet vinegary sauce (actually the same as the Soya Duck) which gives it an extra layer of flavour and cuts the greasiness of it.
We even got a complimentary dessert with our meal, I didn’t take pictures of it but it was tapioca with taro and black glutinous rice sweet soup. It’s served warm and finishes this midnight meal nicely.
As I write this post, it’s around 11:00 pm at night and I’m starting to feel hungry. If you ever have one of those late nights this is one of those places where you can get a really good Cantonese meal. They still have their regular menu throughout the night so no worries if your one Chinese literate friend couldn’t come for Da Lang. I’m sure the waitresses would be happy to translate the menu for you and help you out.