|11am – 10pm|
|Ke Hua St., next to Hokkaido Japanese Restaurant|
|028 8535 0400|
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Mark Hiew (more chengdu)|
Wanton soup: a staple of Chinese cuisine in the Western world, but not so in Southwest China. For those wandering whether a dish found on menus in, say, New York, can crossover successfully in Chengdu, make a stop at a “Lao Ma Chao Shou” for wantons whose delicious universality crosses national borders, whilst remaining quintessentially, mouth-numbingly Sichuanese.
Entering the branch near UESTC, one finds the sort of hole-in-the-wall whose patrons know exactly what they want. While some have gone for the decent noodle bowl options (4-5 RMB), most hover over bowls of wanton soup (3-7): that familiar, deep red broth of oh-so-flavorsome, sensual pepper power within which, rather than hot pot ingredients, shapely, white wantons bob in their stead.
A glimpse at the Chinese-only menu directs you to the restaurant’s namesake dish: it’s top and center, with three size choices: “yi liang”, at three yuan, nets you 10 wantons, while “er” (5) and “san liang” (7) double and triple that amount respectively. There are three spice levels: “wei” is low, “zhong” is medium and “lao” is spiciest. As these are Sichuanese standards, we find the “wei” version hot enough. Some of the friendly wait staff speak Mandarin, others only Sichuanese. If you please, ask for it “qing (tang)”, and they’ll spare the spice.
Add a fried egg (RMB 1) or some cabbage (RMB 0.5) to round out your bowl, or order some spring rolls (RMB 1.5) from the limited appetizer selection. If you can bear the cool temperature, the green bean soup makes for a delectable, mala-neutralizing closer.
Food aside, Lao Ma Chao Shou is not much to look at: faux-brick walls, naked bulbs and utilitarian wooden tables tend towards a speedy meal. It’s more a place to order a simple, cheap, eat-and-leave meal, than a place to take a large party for the evening.