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Healthy Mao Cai
11am - 8:30pm
46 - 3, Central Xiaojia River St.
028 6657 9817

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Susan Johnson (more chengdu)
“Hah, you are really a Chengdu local now!” was the reaction I got when I confessed my fondness for mao cai. With mao cai, raw ingredients get the 'mao' treatment, which means a simmer in soup, before being mixed with seasonings and served up. Mao cai is one of the many local variations on the hot pot theme; cheap, convenient, delicious, and the best versions are crazy spicy.

We gravitate towards places that let you pick your own ingredients, but this can be a challenge at the mao cai shops where the orders are sold by size, and you have to stuff everything into a small bamboo basket. The key is to choose the denser ingredients first and then pile lighter stuff on top. Putting large leaves of bok choy in the bottom of your basket will result in meagre nourishment. Watching a few university students fill their baskets is a good way to pick up the technique.

Typical offerings include cabbage (白菜), potato (土豆), cauliflower (花菜), lotus root (藕片), tofu (豆腐), bean starch (凉粉), bean sprouts (豆芽), wood ear mushrooms (木耳), oyster mushrooms (平菇), cucumber (黄瓜), pumpkin (南瓜), winter melon (冬瓜), and potato starch noodles (土豆粉). It may come as a surprise that blood cubes (血) are not only highly popular in mao cai, but considered a vegetable. If you don't want to eat blood, you should specifically instruct the server so. The meats available are usually beef (牛肉), and all kinds of beef entrails, crispy fried pork (脆肉), or duck intestine (鸭肠).
At Healthy Mao Cai in Xiaojiahe neighborhood, you can tell the server which veggies you want, though someone else handles the bowl. They are also following the trend of having both typical spicy 'hong wei' and mild 'bai wei' soup available, so if you have avoided mao cai until now due to the heat you can try it here. My one quibble with this place is that the spicy mao cai was not hot enough.

Healthy Mao Cai
Healthy Mao Cai