Thursday, 30 April 2009 by kinakoJam
While the western world has in recent years been experiencing a renaissance/journey of discovery into the regional specialities of Chinese cuisine, and Sichuan has become a buzzword for lovers of spicy food, it has long felt like a revolution that would pass Cologne over.
I bemoaned the lack of yum cha here and Maytel asked me: "Is it possible you’ve moved to the one place in the world which Chinese people haven’t immigrated to?" In fact, although there is no Chinatown or thriving German language studies industry, like pretty much everywhere in the world Cologne has its share of Chinese supermarkets, biracial descendants and plenty of small Chinese takeaways selling deep fried meats in cornstarch thickened sauces.
But I have long cherished a dream that somewhere on a back alley in the gothic quarter, we'd find the place where all those in-the-know takeaway workers and tour groups went when they themselves wanted to eat out.
We may have found that at Great Wall, which is owned by two young proprietors in their early 30s named Lily and Jojo. All the staff wear serious black shirts, there are fresh flowers and high-backed chairs, and Mandarin pop ballads pipe out from a tiny stereo positioned half way up the spiral staircase that separates three floors (banquet tables are on the top floor). In short, Great Wall is a dream come true.
Oceans of vivid red chile oil lick at the heels of tofu cubes, bumped up with handfuls of ginger, dried chillies, sichuan pepper and spring onion in their rendition of the classic Mapo Dofu.
A generous plate of Mongolian lamb slivers comes dry-fried and crusted with lavish quantities of cumin & caraway seeds (the chef hails from Hebei province, which borders Beijing and inner Mongolia).
The cucumber salad and rubbery black mushrooms are both must-eats, served cold with a garlicky vinegar dressing and sprigs of coriander.
The Gong bao chicken, though tender and cut into satisfyingly uniform chunks, lacked spiciness and was overly moist - I'd stick to Fuschia Dunlop's more ballsy version in the safety of your own kitchen.
Erik especially loved the Shanghai-style Niu Rou Mian, a generous serving of al dente noodles with chunks of fatty beef, one or two baby bok choi leaves scattered on top and a deep aniseed-cinnamon broth.
We love this place so much, we took visiting kiwi Gut Feelings blogger Coco Solid & Malaysian booty bass DJ Han Baby there last week - it's the jewel in Cologne's crown as far as I'm concerned. We all bonded over the deep fried, home-style aubergine which rivals the laid-back juicy eggplant at KKs in Auckland.
Sections of cucumber are sliced in single pieces which fold out like an accordion:
House smoked tofu:
Radical bad attack: Dan Dan Noodles. Bam!
Happy emotions at Great Wall: