Monday, January 22, 2007

Chairman Mao Hometown-style Food

A quick update on a restaurant I frequent and enjoy: Chairman Mao's Hometown-style Food!

I've mentioned before that Mao Zedong's picture is a little rare to be seen in Shanghai, outside of paper money and products aimed at tourists. There are other places you can half-expect to see it though, and one of them is at Hunanese Restaurants - Mao Zedong was born and raised in Hunan province. While most restaurants don't specify Mao Zedong in the name, a fair number will have a prominent painting of Mao:

From what I understand, Mao Zedong repped the HN his entire life, speaking Hunan dialect (not Mandarin) and eating mostly Hunanese food. In that regards I bear a striking resemblance to Mao Zedong, as I tend to eat Hunanese food four or five times a week. I prefer the stronger flavors of Hunan food to Shanghai-style food. It's much like neighboring Sichuanese food, except Shanghai's Sichuanese food is generally over-adapted to Shanghai tastes.

This talk of different cuisines brings up a point: the difference between Chinese region's cuisines can be very substantial, with Northerners eating lots of noodles, and Cantonese eating anything that moves. Actually I went to the restaurant with a few people, one of them born and raised in the far North of China. I figured I'd just let her order, being Chinese she would have a better idea of what to get. But, she wasn't even familiar with 75% of what was on the menu!

You can see from above, it's chicken soup, some garlic sprouts with pork, some really fatty meat - I was told it's good for your brain, and that it was Mao Zedong's favorite food, huh! Oh yeah, being winter time and all, they have dog dry hot pot, where the dog meat is roasted in a pan over a fire. I want to try it, but the people I'm with keep refusing.

From the picture below, definitely the thing I like least about Chinese food is that they often serve the bones intact with the meat. You're expected to put it all in your mouth and spit out the bones, it's a gross and slow process. That was true in Oakland as well, I would just not order those sorts of dishes, nobody complained. Now my "no small bones" policy is a bit of a pet peeve for the people I eat food with!

The restaurant isn't my favorite Hunanese place - actually there's a much better one immediate to my apartment. But I like the casual atmosphere, the food is pretty good (if a little inconsistent), and I usually end up spending less that $5. And most importantly, it's right near the busy People's Square, on Yunnan Lu near Fuzhou Lu - whereas the other area restaurants I know either aren't that good or aren't that cheap. Oh, and it has a mostly-translated English menu, if this update interests anybody enough to check it out.

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