Zhang Mama Ordering Guide – w/ Pictures!

Headed to Zhang Mama for the best Sichuan food in Beijing, but not sure what to order? UnTour Food Tours wrote the Zhang Mama Ordering Guide to make sure you get the best meal possible (even if you can’t read the Chinese-only menu) – with pictures to boot! So save this post, grab your friends, get to Zhang Mama, and get ordering like a pro.

If you haven’t heard of Zhang Mama, we’ve included it before in our lists of Top Five Beijing Noodle Joints and Top Five Dumpling Shops in Beijing. And we’ve personally been loyal fans since Zhang Mama herself first set up shop – a collection of folding tables and plastic stools – over a decade ago on the route of the Beijing Hutong Breakfast Tour.  But this is our first time creating a Zhang Mama Ordering guide. 

So you know we’ve tried everything on that menu over the years. And we can confidently say that if you order these 10 dishes at Zhang Mama, you will have a great meal. We’ve included some Sichuan classics in this Zhang Mama Ordering Guide as well as a few surprises we think you’ll love.

Zhang Mama Ordering Guide:

Mount Lian Twice-Cooked Pork (连山回锅肉 – liánshān huíguō ròu) 

Zhang Mama Twice Cooked Pork

Also known as “return-to-the-pot” (huíguō) pork because it is first boiled before it is fried, the standard version of this dish is made with pork and green peppers. The Mount Lian variation instead fries large, thin slices of pork leg meat with garlic scapes (stems) and Zhang Mama’s version adds deep-fried wonton wrappers too for a crispy crunch.


Zhang Mama’s Little Stir-Fry (张妈妈小炒 – zhāng māmā xiǎo chǎo)

Zhang Mama Little Stir-fry

This dish of diced pork fried with fresh chili peppers is full of bright and vibrant heat, with every bite of pork delivering a little kick and every bite of chili delivering a big kick. We know from experience that even those afraid of chili will brave the burn for another mouthful of this moreish dish.


Zhong Dumplings (钟水饺 – zhōng shuǐ jiǎo) 

Zhang Mama Ordering Guide Zhong Dumplings

Named for the man who invented them in 1893, surnamed Zhong, these pork and cabbage dumplings are served in a sweet and slightly spicy sauce. These small bowls of 6 or 7 dumplings are often the first dish to disappear during meals at Zhang Mama, so don’t be afraid to add an extra bowl to your order. This Zhang Mama Ordering Guide would be nothing without these heavy hitters!


Fish Fragrant Eggplant (鱼香茄子 yú xiāng qié zǐ)

Zhang Mama Ordering Guide Fish Fragrant Eggplant

Don’t be put off by its name – there are no fish here; the eggplant is cooked in a sauce that was traditionally used for fish, but chefs discovered it worked equally well on eggplant/aubergine. This dish of eggplant fried in a garlic sweet chili sauce is pure comfort food and one of our favorite vegetable dishes at Zhang Mama.


Kung Pao Chicken (宫保鸡丁 gōng bǎo jī dīng) 

Zhang Mama Kung Pao Chicken

Familiar to many visitors, this dish of diced chicken (jī dīng) fried with chillies and peanuts is named for palace guard (gōng bǎo) Ding Baozhen (丁宝桢,   dīng bǎo zhēn), a Qing Dynasty official who served as the Governor of Sichuan from 1876-1886.


Hot and Sour Shredded Potato (酸辣土豆丝 suān là tǔ dòu sī) 

Zhang Mama Ordering Guide Shredded Potato

Hand-cutting ingredients into fine shreds is a skill used in preparing many Chinese cuisines and transforms ingredients by creating new textures and allowing different forms of cooking. In this dish, shredded potato is stir-fried with chillies and vinegar and cooked just long enough to be tender without becoming soft. 


Mapo Tofu or Pockmarked Grandma’s Tofu (麻婆豆腐 má pó dòu fǔ) 

Zhang Mama Ordering Guide Mapo Tofu

Firm tofu cubes are coated in sauce made with fermented chili bean paste (豆瓣酱, dòu bàn jiàng). Sichuan peppercorns add a numbing flavor to this dish, which delicious eaten over boiled rice (米饭, mǐ fàn).


Dan Dan Mian or Carrying Pole Noodles (担担面 dān dān miàn)

Zhang Mama Dan Dan Mian

Named for the shoulder poles street vendors used to carry baskets of these noodles up the hilly paths of Chongqing, Dandan Noodles are topped with a saucy mix of pork, ginger and peanuts. Stir the mixture in so it coats the noodles before you dive in.


Flowing Water Tofu (活水豆腐 (huóshuǐ dòufǔ) 

Zhang Mama Ordering Guide Flowing Water Tofu

This dish may look plain, but once you start dipping these chunks of freshly made tofu into the very zippy hot, sour and fragrant sauce, you’ll see why it made our list of favorite dishes. The two elements complement and contrast: it’s comfort food that packs a punch. Dining alone? A serving of Huoshui Tofu and a bowl of rice offers extravagant flavor without extravagant ordering.


Lotus Root Slices with Pickled Wild Mountain Chillies (野山泡椒藕片 yěshān pàojiāo ǒupiàn) 

Zhang Mama Ordering Guide Pickled Lotus

Finally, we offer a bonus eleventh favorite dish, which is definitely among our favorite Chinese cold dishes absolutely, not just at Zhang Mama. Pickled wild mountain chillies, while these days neither wild nor necessarily from mountains, bring a distinctive hot and sour flavor that makes a perfect dressing for the cool, crisp and starchy lotus slices.


Zhang Mama Locations: 

Put your Zhang Mama Ordering Guide to good use at one of these two locations.

Near Lama/Confucius Temple: 

张妈妈特色川味馆 (交道口店) Zhāng Māmā Tèsè Chuānwèi Guǎn (Jiāodàokǒu Diàn)

76 Jiaodaokou Nandajie Dongcheng District 东城区交道口南大街76号. Hours: 10:30am – 10:00pm. Tel: 188 1119 5778


Near Drum & Bell Tower: 

*Note this location is less likely to have a wait at peak meal times.*

张妈妈特色川味馆 (鼓楼店) Zhāng Māmā Tèsè Chuānwèi Guǎn (Gǔlóu Diàn)

100 Ande Lu Dongcheng District 东城区安德路100号. Hours: 10:30am – 10:00pm. Tel: 137 1785 0992. 

Looking for more delicious food in Beijing? Join one of our award-winning food tours! We offer a Beijing Hutong Breakfast Tour and Old Beijing Dinner Tour, as well as tours in Shanghai, Chengdu, and Hong Kong. We look forward to showing you our favorite places to eat across China!

Post written by Garth Wilson.

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