“YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!!” I yell out, somewhat redolent of tennis legend John McEnroe’s infamous outbursts against Wimbledon umpires when lines calls didn’t go his way.
“But this place is really good for its slow-braised pork belly though” Mysaucepan pleads.
“I don’t care because I ain’t going to a restaurant named after a mass-murderer no matter how good the food might be” I declare.
But the thoughts of melt-in-your-mouth-pork-belly are slowly dismantling my moral high-ground facade.
And truth be told that putting on a straight face while trying to restrain myself bursting into uncontrollable laughter is no easy task.
“Not only is the pork belly a hit, I think they have a lot of other tasty Hunan dishes which you won’t find in other regular Chinese restaurants” she adds. “I’m sure you’ll find a dish that you would like?”
“You are such a sweetheart, I’ll put aside my political biases and go wherever you decide tonight, just for you, how does that sound?” I say.
A smile comes across her face and Mysaucepan says, “You can choose the next restaurant, deal?”
“Absolutely, a nice steak house perhaps?” I ask, hoping to seal the deal in her moment of weakness.
“Okay, that’s a deal” she replies.
Chairman Mao Chinese Restaurant is located along the restaurant strip of Kensington on Anzac Parade and we are here tonight with our friends Vince and June. Aptly named because this restaurant serves up native Hunan dishes, a province where the late Chinese ruler hailed from.
It is always a good idea to start with an icy cold beer at this restaurant because the food can get a little intense with its taste and flavours.
A small plate of spicy sour pickled cucumber with chilli and peanuts is definitely working up my appetite with its tangy and salty taste.
It’s a cold dish and would make a nice appetizer in summer too although what you need to do is to strain the oil from each piece of cucumber.
The steamed pork belly with preserved vegetables is a classic Chinese dish which has many variations from different provinces in China. Tonight’s Hunan version is steamed as opposed to the slow-braised Hakka version.
This dish is one of my favourites not to mention a favourite of Chairman Mao’s as well. Each piece of pork belly is utterly delicious, fatty and decadent.
The layers of fat and rind are wobbly and you can feel your arteries being slowly clogged up with each heart-attack inducing mouthful. It’s bloody delicious though and I wonder why every bite of this fatty pork belly conjours images of Oprah Winfrey in my mind.
The spicy stir-fried five spice tofu with chilli and celery is another Hunan special. The slices of tofu is firm with a gentle fragrance while the chilli offers some heat to this oil-laden piece of work.
The flavours of a spicy duck with celery and chilli are good but the gamey taste of duck is somewhat lost with the strong chillies. I would prefer a Peking duck, five spice crispy aromatic duck or Chinese tea-smoked duck any day.
Be forewarned – every dish is bloody oily and this duck dish is no exception.
My recommendation is beer to wash down the grease and heat of the dishes. I would even go as far as drinking my beer Asian style in this restaurant, that is gulping it down super-chilled with loads of ice-cubes.
A stir-fried green capsicum with perserved duck egg will not win the beauty contest but it is tasty and even oilier than all the previous dishes.
The paradigm of Hunan cooking with gallons of oil is perhaps hard to shake-off but it is getting a little ridiculous by this stage. Oh well, at least it would be a strong contender for the oiliest dish.
Though I am a little put off by the oil factor, I am keen to try and replicate this dish at home. I like the soft and grassy flavour of the capsicum combined with the unctuous and heavy taste of preserved duck egg minus the oil of course.
My takeaway dish from this dinner would be a cold salad of grilled red, green and yellow capsicum with healthy lashes of extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice then tossed with diced preserved duck eggs and roasted pine nuts - Goodbye Chairman Mao and hello summer!
So dear readers, would you be put off by oily and fatty foods even though it’s tasty?
Chairman Mao Chinese Restaurant
189 Anzac Parade, Kensington, Sydney
Tel: +61 2 9697 9189
Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 5pm – 10pm
Friday, Saturday & Sunday 5pm – 11pm
Closed on Tuesdays