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Mar 24, 2004 04:39 PM

Xinjiang dishes at Darda [Milpitas]

  • r

I discovered that Darda has three Xinjiang dishes on its menu, without English translations. On the takeout menu, they're listed at the top, between the live clams and the appetizers; on the regular menu, they're at the bottom of the live seafood page. The first is chicken ($12.95), second beef, third lamb (both $8.95).

I tried the lamb because a waitress at the Milpitas branch highly recommended it, calling it "lamb with cumin." It's wonderful--marinated with *lots* of chiles, cumin, maybe lemon juice, then stir-fried with onions, bell peppers, and cilantro. If I tasted it blind I'd think it was Mexican. Very good with the thin sesame bread with green onion.

I had an errand to run in San Jose yesterday, so on the way back I stopped at the Fremont branch to get some to go. Much to my surprise, they'd never heard of lamb with cumin, and it wasn't on the menu. So I described cumin, she goes in the back and brings out a pinch, then points out the no-translation items and explains that they're Xinjiang dishes. Haven't tried the chicken or beef yet. She said the beef was good but warned me away from the chicken, saying it was "dark chicken" and chopped in small pieces with bones.

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  1. The "dark chicken" probably refers to black chicken, a free range chicken with black skins. Very low fat, supposedly has medicinal value.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Peter

      If I'm looking at the right menu, the untranslated $12.95 chicken dish is simply "Three Cup Chicken." I don't know why they would use a silky chicken in this dish; maybe she was just referring to the dark sauce absorbed by the chicken, and the warning may have been more about the bones in it.

      1. re: soupçon

        What menu are you looking at? As I noted below, the one I saw last night no longer has the Xinjiang section.

    2. A great chowhound find! I'd never even noticed those three untranslated dishes on the menu. After reading your message I rushed out to Darda and tried the lamb with cumin. It's one of the best and most interesting dishes that Darda offers, quite a bit spicier than any of their other dishes with an unusually fresh, well-defined aromatic flavor.

      Of course this will only help to perpetuate the greatest fear among us ethnic-restaurant devotees, i.e. that we're missing the really good dishes because they're not translated or not on the menu.

      1. The Fremont branch no longer exists.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Is that something recent, Robert?

          Edit: If you read my original post, I answered part of my question.

        2. I had the cumin lamb yesterday at the original Darda in Milpitas, it was as good as ever. I'm not sure it's on the menu any more, at least I couldn't find it. The Xinjiang section is gone, at least from the English menu.

          There was a report of a disappointing cumin lamb at the new Fremont branch:

          1 Reply
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Kind of off topic, but for lack of a better place to post it, I also got some really good spicy eggplant, one of those dishes that reminds me of how good sweet and sour can be when it's not too sweet and the balance is right.

          2. The menu I'm looking at has a "shui zu niu rou" at $8.95 untranslated, as well as "shui zu yu pian" at $12.95 These are usually translated as "water-boiled beef" and "water-boiled fish filets" and are Sichuan dishes, not Xinjiang. The $8.95 cumin lamb dish is translated to English.


            2 Replies
            1. re: soupçon

              That menu's from 2006. Maybe I missed those on the one I was looking at last night.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I'll have to remember to look at the dates on the original posts! When they're bumped up to the top I tend to automatically think of them as new