Though all five tastes are represented in Dai cuisine, the emphasis is on the sour, the pungent, and the fragrant. Famous Dai dishes include kao yu (grilled fish) and kao sunzi (grilled bamboo shoots), often wrapped in banana leaves or lemon grass; xiangzhu fan (fragrant bamboo rice, or glutinous rice stuffed inside a hollowed bamboo that is then cooked over an open fire), and suansun zhu yu (fish boiled with sour bamboo shoots).

Informal Dai and Western food can be had at the traveler's cafes concentrated around Manting Lu, with prices about ¥10 to ¥30 ($3.90/£1.95) per dish. The best of these is the Mei Mei Cafe at Manting Lu 5 (tel. 0691/216-1221), with a good selection of pizzas and pastas, juices, and coffees. The big slabs of whole-grain bread that they serve with their breakfasts are especially tasty. Staffed by A-chun and Orchid, both girls are founts of local knowledge and can help out with just about anything. The Mekong Cafe (Meigong Canguan), at Manting Lu 111 (tel. 0691/212-8895; open 8am-1am), has gone downhill since our last visit but they still prepare some reasonably priced food such as Dai-style steamed pineapple sticky rice to a Hani set meal. Banna Cafe at the corner of Manting Lu is best worth avoiding; continental breakfast consisted of burned coffee, fried bread rather than toast, and ill-tasting and -looking butter. The Dongguan Jiaozi Guan (tel. 0691/214-9346) on Jingde Dong Lu (open 7am-10pm) serves your basic northern staples like dumplings, noodles, and steamed buns.

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