The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Front Page -

If you are the kind of per­son who likes things done “just so”; if you have a touch of OCD, turn the page now. If, how­ever, you’re ad­ven­tur­ous, en­joy go­ing with the flow when trav­el­ling, eating at lit­tle road­side stalls to taste the au­then­tic flavours of your host coun­try and aren’t scared when there’s no sign of a starched linen table­cloth, read on and sali­vate.

I will ad­mit, once seated at Mando, I be­gin to have reser­va­tions.

Suf­fice to say, I could sug­gest a few im­prove­ments.

The cush­ion I am sit­ting on has seen bet­ter days and we’re squished at the rear of this tiny shop, right next to the kitchen.

There are soft drink car­tons lit­tered about, piles of empty bam­boo steam bas­kets and tatty bits of or­na­men­ta­tion in­clud­ing an es­pe­cially in­ap­pro­pri­ate stuffed rein­deer head mounted on the fac­ing wall.

In­tu­ition tells me the food here is go­ing to be good. I’ve looked in be­fore and seen peo­ple feast­ing on moun­tains of chicken, sleeves rolled up and sat­is­fied ex­pres­sions on their well-fed faces.

It’s not the sort of place you’d choose on ap­pear­ances and yet, there are al­ways din­ers seated at the pave­ment ta­bles.

“It has to have some­thing go­ing for it,” you think to your­self. And it does – lots. On en­ter­ing, we walk past a front counter, only in­stead of some­one serv­ing, there’s a chef up to his el­bows in flour, thumping a rolling pin on the bench.

Min­utes later he whizzes past with hand­fuls of noo­dles.

They’re made on the spot to or­der, you can’t get fresher than that.

We dis­cover the spe­cialty here, kalguksu, is hand­made noo­dle soup. Along with the hand­made mando, which are lit­tle dumplings stuffed with a choice of fill­ings.

We try the minced beef and pork mixed with cab­bage, onion, spring onion, gar­lic and gin­ger mando and the veg­etable (tofu cab­bage, pump­kin, car­rot and gar­lic) mando, which are green, as they’re made from spinach pas­try.

There’s even kim­chi-filled mando. You can have them steamed, pan fried or deep fried. Ours are steamed and we dip them in soy and chilli sauces.

We have also or­dered seafood tofu soup (a spicy stock with tiger prawn, baby oc­to­pus, mus­sels, soft tofu, bean sprout, spring onion and enoki mush­rooms (it’s sup­posed to have a cracked egg in it, but I have re­quested they leave it out); and a seafood kalguksu that bears sim­i­lar float­ing in­gre­di­ents, but a to­tally dif­fer­ent stock. This one is lus­ciously pep­pery and filled with those fab­u­lous al dente knife-cut noo­dles.

Both are big pip­ing hot bowls of health­giv­ing good­ness. Mine comes with side serves of steamed rice and kim­chi.

And be­cause we had no idea just how much food we were in for, we’ve or­dered a vol­cano chicken to share, a whole chicken boned and cut into bite-sized pieces tossed in spicy seasoned flour and deep fried. It is served with chips. The chicken might be a lit­tle bit naughty, but it’s sticky, sweet and per­fectly pi­quant.

You can or­der mild , spicy, death by spicy or “x100”.

As it’s a first, we go for mild.

This fried chicken is de­light­fully sin­ful, but well worth it.

Ev­ery­thing lands on the ta­ble siz­zling, steam­ing, straight from the wok to you and too hot to han­dle. It means you’re tan­ta­lised as you wait for it to cool.

Ver­dict: Lunch, din­ner or snack, it’s a win­ner.

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