DINER WITH MAOBy
After three weeks in Yunnan, I was taken to a special restaurant the day before heading back home. After a three weeks of mostly vegetables, this restaurant was going to completely erase any good my lean diet had on my body! And I am all the more wise for it!
Mao Jia Fan Dian (Mao’s Family Restaurant) is a chain started in 1987 by Mao’s distant niece. It is typical Hunnan style food with lots of heat. From snake to eggplant to tongue-numbing chilies, there is plenty to choose from. But the signature dish here is what I was craving.
Walking up the stairs and out of the searing heat of the street, you are met by a huge bust of Chairman Mao as you enter the restaurant. It is large, tasteful decorated with polished wood floors and furniture. It is bright with large windows and the staff welcoming and polite.
The famous dish served here is Hong Shao Rou. It is the dish that Mao would often tuck into with gusto. Arriving at my table was a small crucible filled with red cooked pork bellies. These are square sections of fat from the pig’s belly, dressed with five spices and stewed in clay pots for a day. They are thick, soft and creamy morsels of melt-in-your-mouth fat with a little meat on the underside. You cannot eat just one, and as for any dieting – you can forget it.
This is pork fat goodness at its finest. While devouring my pork bellies, I couldn’t help thinking of the globe-trotting gourmand, Anthony Bourdain and how he would react. Well, I actually do know how he would react! The other diners and staff would look away, embarrassed by his enthusiastic moaning, and after eating, he would pull out a cigarette to satiate himself after a well deserved culinary orgasm.
This location of Mao Jia Fan Dian is in the southern Guangzhou city of Dongguan. A perfect place to stop and build up your strength for the arduous task of heading through customs and flying out of Hong Kong for that 17 hour flight home! Thought this location was in Dongguan, the restaurants are wildly popular and can be found in pretty much all large cities.
On the plane, still enjoying the lasting effects of dinner with Mao, a lyric from an old Genesis song kept going through my head as I drifted off to sleep… “Young man says you are what you eat – eat well…”