Mao and Co
Restaurant quality dishes and the convenience of a food truck.
November 27, 2017
This is not your average food truck. Bringing decades of creative culinary experience with them, Drew and Tom from Mao and Co have masterfully meshed traditional Chinese cuisine with the flares of the contemporary food scene. Having owned and operated his own successful restaurant in Sydney, Wellington born-and-raised Drew returned to our cool capital to open up Mao and Co, and he invited us along to celebrate their first year feeding hungry Wellingtonians. Prepare yourself for restaurant quality dishes with the added convenience of a food truck.
Although Mao and Co's iconic kitty cat-branded caravan can be spotted anywhere around the city, on this occasion it was parked up in the idyllic Frank Kitts Park. Imagine being caressed by the sun, tickled by a warm ocean breeze and being seduced by the wafting aromas of freshly-made dumplings and noodles. Pure nirvana.
To start, we cooled off with a delicious jasmine iced tea ($4) followed by two of every dumpling (I couldn't choose between all of the options). A rainbow of red, green, and purple dumplings were presented to us. Dyed with vegetable juices and squid-ink, these dumplings burst at the seams with genius combinations such as prawn and water-chestnut, pork, cabbage and fennel, spiced tofu, and lamb and cumin. All of Mao and Co's dumplings are made fresh daily, and the ingredients were the freshest I've tasted in a dumpling. Unlike most other dumpling spots, it seems that the fillings were minced more as there were no chewy chunks concealed. This created a smooth, almost creamy texture — particularly pronounced in the tofu dumpling. Pair these precious parcels of perfection with their house made soy, ginger and Chinese vinegar sauce, or if you want spice to boot, drizzle with the (also) house-made chilli oil. With prices at six for $9, eight for $12, and 12 for $15, you're getting some serious bang for your buck.
But wait, there's more. Not only are artisan dumplings on the menu, but fresh, handmade noodle dishes too. Feeling clucky? Go for the sweet soy chicken. Wanna pig out? Their pork-belly has been poached in traditional Chinese master stock for four hours and quite literally melts in your mouth and is served with a quail egg. If you wanna sweat, the salty-yet-spicy Szechuan beef will have your tongue tingling, as will the chilli prawn, tofu and black bean masterpiece. All noodle dishes are $12. The noodles were one of the highlights for me. It is unique to find a restaurant, let alone a food truck, that makes its noodles fresh every day. The texture was unmatched, and I could taste the passion and care that had been put into them.
Because I'm a slave to my sweet tooth, there was no way I wasn't going to try their mango, sago, and coconut pudding ($4). Creamy and custard like, the mango was lovingly blanketed with fluffy sago and garnished with crunchy black sesame seed and sweet goji berries. Honestly? Heaven in a cup.
What I love most about Mao and Co is the commitment to excellence. Everything is presented beautifully, whether it be the sliced lotus root with the dumplings or the marbled quail egg — everything has its place. All of the ingredients work with each other, and because of this, Mao and Co boasts an exquisite dining experience.
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