I have a quite long relationship with the Chinese cuisine. When a graduate student (around 30 years ago) Chinese restaurants were my favorite ones, and for very practical reasons, they were cheap and didn´t charge for white rice. Thus, we used to go in small groups, usually three or four students, order one single protein dish and fill our adolescent and always empty stomachs with lots of starch. By the way, the jasmine tea was also free.
After I got my first job and moved to Rio Grande I became friends with a Chinese family, the Chao (Labish, Lien and Don), who then introduced me to Chinese cooking. With them I’ve learned to prepare several dishes, including a beef and pork dumpling which is a regular part of our family meals in very special occasions. Once I even prepared a Chinese dinner for them, so that Lien could evaluate my cooking skills. She approved my cooking, of course (I bet she did it not because they tasted good, but mainly because she was a good friend and didn’t want to hurt my feelings).
A couple of years ago we’ve received a Chinese exchange student, Becky Feng, who besides teaching me some authentic dishes also served as a judge of my Chinese culinary skills.
So, no wonder I had to visit a Chinese restaurant during my last trip to São Paulo, where Brazilian largest Chinese community lives.
A chose the restaurant Chi-Fu, at Praça Carlos Gomes 200 – Bairro da Liberdade, mainly because I’ve been told that the Chinese Mafia holds its meeting on the upper floors of the restaurant. If Chi-Fu food is good enough for the Chinese Mafia, than it’s good enough for me.
Let’s make it clear from the start: I don’t know if the Chinese Mafia meets at this restaurant, in fact I don’t even really care if they do, but let me tell you, I had my best restaurant meal ever. No, not only the best Chinese meal, the best restaurant meal of any origin. The food was superb.
Choosing the dishes was a hard task, as a wide variety of mouth-watering offers are part of the menu. After some discussion we (my wife, our friends Renan and Leila, and I) decided to play rather safe and ordered 3 dishes: noodles with beef (the safest choice), sweet and sour pork and roasted duck (a special offer that day). Tea was already on the table, and bowl of white rice was also ordered.
The pasta was prepared in the house and cooked properly. The vegetables were crispy as they should be. There was a nice smoky taste on the dish which I believe may be the result of toasted sesame seed oil. Perfect.
I don’t really know how to describe this dish, as it was, as the name implies, made of perfectly batter coated pork, with a very well balanced sweet and sour taste. The meat was so tender it nearly melted in your mouth. I could spend days eating this pork non-stop.
But for me the real star was the duck.
Roasted to perfection… and the skin, oh Lord, the skin…crispy with a layer of fat underneath…shinning like the jewel it really was. Just priceless.
As I mentioned above, I’ve had Chinese food prepared by a variaty of people, from humble restaurants when I was a student, to home cooking at my friend Chao home, I’ve also been to Chinatown in New York and London, but I had never had any experience like this.
I’m more than sure that the chef and cooks from Chi Fu will go heaven when they die, as that’s the food God will want to be served at his home.