To find Ming Ting Restaurant (明婷饭店), a seriously ratty hole-in-the-wall, you have to look for the sign that says “Brains.” Or the lady (at the end of the alley where it is located) yelling “Brains!” No joke. I thought I had wandered into some torn-down tenements or a landfill before the lady yelled.
This is partially because brains are the restaurant’s specialty dish (豆腐脑花, tofu and brains, to be more specific), and partially because the restaurant is located down a shady unlit alleyway strewn with garbage. There’s very little even remotely appetizing about the surroundings. I’m not really sure what brought me out to this area, other than perhaps the thrill of adventure and a story mentioned in passing from my earlier travel companion Talena, whose relative had sung the praises of this brain and tofu concoction.
But when you can get some amazing food, these details are fairly minor. I wanted to try the brains, but as a solo diner with a lot of eating in the days ahead, I didn’t want to roll the gastrointestinal dice more times than I was already doing by eating here. So I went for the other crowd favorites: a stir-fried rice vermicelli dish with lotus and cabbage (莲白粉丝), ‘weirdly’ fragrant fried spareribs (奇香排骨), and a sadomasochistic-looking pot of chili-braised fish.
The noodles were a greasy mess of amazing, the rice vermicelli having soaked up whatever savory notes from the stir-fry process, the chewy strings playing counter to the crunch of julienned vegetables.
I didn’t really care to figure out what the ‘weird’ part of the fragrance was, but the ribs were probably the weakest among the three dishes, mainly because the meat was very tough, and probably not of particularly high-quality provenance.And the pièce de résistance was this astonishing pot of braised fish, bone-in, chopped up and cooked just right, beautifully flaky and tender, drowned in a metal tub of terror-inducing potency and oil (and crisp bean sprouts). The fish was immaculately oily and daunting, but the bones ended up being not so difficult, since there were ample stretches of pure luscious white meat that melted into a buttery stream of fiery chili oil.This was a phenomenal dish, so unexpectedly rustled up out of dilapidated environs.
Ming TIng Restaurant / 明婷饭店
26-6 Wai Cao Jia Alley / 外曹家巷26号附6号(近马鞍南路)