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Monday, December 07, 2009

Chairman Mao Chinese Restaurant, Kensington

The orange red walls of Chairman Mao Chinese Restaurant are an ideal backdrop for the propaganda posters that adorn its walls. The hue might also give an indication of the heat your tongue is about to endure - this is a restaurant that specialises in Hunanese cuisine, its spicy offerings favoured by Chairman Mao.

Celery salad (complimentary)

Most of us love chilli; Suze, not so much. She obligingly comes along anyway, reassured by our comments that surely a few dishes won't be laden with heat.

The restaurant is reasonably busy on Wednesday night, and we take our seats at a table only two over from where Pauline Nguyen and Mark Jensen, of Red Lantern, are sitting with family and friends.

A complimentary celery salad is placed at our table. The crisp celery has been dressed liberally with vinegar and chilli, a perfect appetiser that awakens our tastebuds for our dinner ahead.

Hunan assorted braise $15.80
Braised sliced pig ear with spicy chilli oil

We're disappointed to discover that the signature dish, Chairman Mao's favourite braised pork ($16.80), is sold out of the evening, and console ourselves with a platter of Hunan assorted braise instead.

Five spices braised beef

We're presented with an impressive platter divided up into four offerings. Braised sliced pigs ears are a lovely combination of soft gelatin and a cartilage crunch. Five spices braised beef consists of tender slices of aromatic beef sprinkled with sesame seeds and dried chilli flakes.

Five spice tofu

Thin planks of five spice tofu have a satisfying firm texture, tight with protein.

Braised pig trotters

Braised pig trotters are a soft melding mouthful, cooled by the ribbons of gelatinous joy. The variations in textures mean we happily revisit this dish throughout the meal, revelling in a little crunchy pigs ear there, a meaty morsel of tofu there.

Propaganda poster

Tsingtao beer

Preserved plum drink (prune drink)

The boys down Tsingtao beers, but I'm more interested in the preserved plum drink on the menu. I'm expecting something sweet and salty, and then realise when the bottle is brought out that it's merely a prune drink I've had before. The prune drink is not thick and pulpy but thin and sweet, like a fruity flat cola - in a good way.

Chopped green onion pancake $3.20 each (two pictured)

Green onion pancakes are crisp, flaky and light, impressively devoid of any oily residue. In a night filled with chilli, this is the only dish Suze manages to eat with her plain boiled rice. It makes me wonder what the little kids we spot in the restaurant are eating for dinner.

Stir-fried pork intestine with hot chillis $19.80

Stir-fried pork intestines have quite a strong aroma that follows through on the palate. This isn't my favourite dish of the evening - the spongy tubes a little chewy with a pungency that cannot be disguised, even with the generous addition of oil and chilli.

Stir fried cucumber with perilla spice and red chilli $12.80

We look to the stir fried cucumber for some relief, only to find this dish is probably the spiciest of them all. I quite enjoy the contrast of the soft cucumber with the heat of chilli and Szechuan pepper, and whilst it doesn't soothe the tongue, it does offer a welcome element of vegetables to our meat-heavy dishes.

Stir-fried house-made smoked pork with five spice bean curd $18.80

The most popular dish we try that evening is the stir-fried house-made smoked pork with five spice bean curd. The pork is incredibly aromatic, slices of pork belly that smell and taste of woodfire smoke, resplendent with thick layers of fat. Five spice bean curd add firmness to the dish, mixed with wilted strips of sweet Chinese cabbage.

We found the dishes do have an element of oiliness to them, but it's a small price to pay for the way it carries the flavours of chilli so well. I relish the way my tongue increasingly tingles throughout the meal, the front of the tongue numbed by the Szechuan pepper.

It's like there's a party in my mouth, and the conga line is just about to begin.

View Larger Map
Chairman Mao on Urbanspoon

Chairman Mao Chinese Restaurant
189 Anzac Pde, Kensington, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9697 9189

Opening hours:
Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 5pm-10pm
Friday, Saturday and Sunday 5pm-11pm
Closed on Tuesdays



Congratulations to Jo Taylor, Pola Bear, Wendy, Jasmine1485 and Kate - you have each won a bottle of Bundaberg Reserve Rum with your own personalised label.

Missed out this time? Don't forget to submit your entries for the Freebie Friday competitions still open!
17 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 12/07/2009 02:30:00 am


  • At 12/07/2009 7:37 am, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    The smoked pork and bean curd looks so good! Won't be able to make it out there until January now. :-(

  • At 12/07/2009 9:31 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Mm I really need to try this place sometime, I love my spicy dishes. The braised pig ears sound really great, the intestines not so much :S

  • At 12/07/2009 11:55 am, Blogger Jasmine1485 said…

    Yay!! Thank you so much for the competition and wonderful prizes :) I know my dad will love it.

  • At 12/07/2009 12:10 pm, Blogger Forager said…

    Good choice with the preserved plum drink! It's a very popular choice to go with fatty, fried and hot foods as it's considered "cooling" (yang) and will balance out the hot yin-style dishes. No oil overload stories to be heard of afterwards?

  • At 12/07/2009 12:41 pm, Blogger AY said…

    Mmmmm...smoked pork! Aromatic indeed. Sounds like another place to add to my list of places to try - especially since it's so close to UNSW! :D Thanks as always Helen!

  • At 12/07/2009 4:55 pm, Anonymous Simon said…

    I found that the beer helped with the pork intestines. Either that or I had a particularly "aromatic" piece at the beginning but the rest I found weren't a problem.

    Was a big fan of the smoked pork dish. Would certainly look to order that again the next time I go there.

  • At 12/07/2009 5:22 pm, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    I've heard it takes a lot of work to rid pig's intestines of its unpleasant taste. I suppose that's why deep-fried varieties are so popular because the cooking method further masks the flavour?

  • At 12/07/2009 7:36 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    bwahahaha the burning the burning!

  • At 12/07/2009 8:33 pm, Anonymous The Ninja said…

    All hail the Chairman Mao!

    Despite having failed to take him out on numerous occasions...but the shuriken tablets did the trick eventually.

    There's a Mao's restaurant in Melbourne as well, wonder if it's associated with this one.

  • At 12/07/2009 9:04 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    MMmm I am craving some pig ears, intestines and propaganda nomnomnom

  • At 12/07/2009 9:08 pm, Blogger Yas @ hungry.digital.elf. said…

    Too bad that I missed out on dinning with you guys, but i can't handle spicy eitherrr. Looks very good though, must be hot!

  • At 12/08/2009 2:28 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Joey - The smoked pork was amazing, and thoroughly recommended. Hope you enjoy your visit!

    Hi Stephcookie - It's funny how spicy dishes can be so addictive - must be the adrenalin rush. The pigs ears I loved, and yes, not so keen on the intestines this time :)

    Hi Jasmine1485 - You're welcome. Hope your Dad enjoy the prize!

    Hi Forager - I didn't realise the balancing effect of the preserved plum drink although I did enjoy it! I didn't have too much of an oil overload but then maybe I'm just getting used to overeating too much! lol

    Hi AY - It is very close to UNSW so should be handy for you. Hope you make it there sometime :)

    Hi Simon - I reckon beer makes everything taste better. lol. And yep, the smoked pork was a real winner.

    Hi Mademoiselle Delicieuse - Good point re: the intestines. I still have to learn how to embrace the intestine flavour - I'm working on it!

    Hi Chocolatesuze - lol. You did well to try a few things - even the cucumber was deceptive in its chilli level!

    Hi The Ninja - Not sure about the Melbourne connection, but interesting coincedence otherwise.

    Hi FFichiban - lol. Sounds like you're looking for trouble!

    Hi Yas - Nothing like adding a little spice to your life! There were a couple of non-chilli dishes on the menu I think, but somehow everything we ordered had a tonne of chilli. The spring onion pancake is good, as Suze will testify! lol

  • At 12/08/2009 3:36 am, Blogger sugarpuffi said…

    being born in Hunan, I know a fair bit about Hunan cuisine. To determine whether a Hunan restaurant is good or not, locals judge it on these two dishes - stir fried smoked meat/fish and preserved beans with minced pork.

    Good restaurant choice btw. Chairman Mao's is much better than Sydney Xiang's in Burwood although the food at Chairman Mao's were not as good as when they first opened.

  • At 12/08/2009 11:38 am, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    I am surprised you didn't like the intestines as well, I thought you would be familiar with that taste ? It's quite common in congee and Bak Kut Teh? But the oilyness in the dishes really beat me down towards the end of the meal. I want to go back to try other dishes.

  • At 12/09/2009 1:14 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think the majority of the food you have shown looks really greasy and oily. I would much prefer a nice Japanese meal than this stuff

  • At 3/18/2010 2:40 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Sugarpuffi - Thanks for the insight. I'm no expert on Hunan cuisine, but always wiling to learn! Will have to keep those two dishes in mind for future reference!

    Hi Billy - We never ate intestines much at home so I'm still learning to appreciate its flavour. lol. I did find the oiliness of the dishes tended to accumulate - perhaps next time we need to go in the depths of winter so the cuisine is far more appropriate for the climate!

    Hi Anon - I think its important to consider that local cuisines are a product of their environment, both with regards to access to ingredients and climate. I can imagine these dishes would be ideal in a bitterly cold winter - we're lucky in Australia to have access to fresh seafood and enjoy much more temperate weather!

  • At 2/14/2014 5:27 pm, Anonymous bob @ jugernauts.com said…

    going tonight. I expected mo dumpling in the pics. I hope they have dumpling and pork belly!!!


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