Mama Chang, the new “home-style” Chinese restaurant in the Peter Chang portfolio, pays tribute to the women that influenced the legendary former embassy chef by serving dishes that call back his childhood in the Hubei province of central China and his home life in Virginia.
Along with vegetable-centered plates that speak to a farmer’s diet, that includes chile-laden food that will clear sinuses throughout the serene-looking dining room in Fairfax, Virginia, that’s full of green plants, white paint, and tan wood.
Lydia Chang, the chef’s daughter who now heads up business development for the family’s restaurants, says that Hubei-style food relies heavily on peppers. Her father, a master of numbing spice, has woven in Sichuan and Hunan techniques as well.
“To him there’s no line,” Lydia Chang says. “In the end, the food that tastes the best makes sense.”
Peter Chang’s mother, Ronger Wang, flew in from China to supervise recipes and take part in opening festivities. The new restaurant’s stir-fried pork, a subtly spicy family-style bowl with green peppers and pickled mustard greens, comes straight out of her playbook. It was one of Lydia Chang’s favorite while she lived with her grandmother.
Lisa Chang, the unsung hero behind the family’s famous scallion bubble pancakes, shows off her baking prowess with sesame shaobing, a buttery, layered pastry that’s available as a starter.
The menu comes with a chile rating system to guide guests who want to feel the burn. One nuclear option is a family style pot of flounder, tofu, and vermicelli noodles floating in a pot of pickled pepper broth.
Fans of Chang’s dry fried eggplant will gravitate to the dry fried cauliflower. Chinese barbecue pig feet and dry chile pork intestines are two fiery options that show off the family’s technique with humble parts of the pig.
Mama Chang is located at 3251 Old Lee Highway in Fairfax, Virginia. Lunch and dinner are Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.