We were contacted recently by Mama Fu’s to try their new Black Market Menu prior to their full launch of the menu locally. The Black Market Menu, according to Mama Fu’s, features innovative Asian cuisine developed by Mama Fu’s world-class chefs; selected through an internal culinary challenge held annually every fall. Mama Fu’s chefs display their skills and innovation inspired by their experiences and stories of travels throughout Asia. The winning dishes earn a spot on the Black Market Menu, and the coveted red chef’s hat is awarded to the first place winner. The Black Market Menu is available to members of Mama Fu’s rewards club. The owner of our local Mama Fu’s, Jeannie, picked out a massive sampling menu for us consisting of their Black Market favorites and their main menu favorites. It’s important to note that Mama Fu’s is extremely vegetarian and vegan friendly and everything is prepared fresh so they can accommodate food allergies better than any franchise restaurant I have ever seen.
They hire chefs straight from local culinary programs in Jacksonville, so the preparation is made with love and showcases the talent in the kitchen. I was abundantly impressed with the attentive customer service and concern by Jeannie and her employees to make sure my allergies were noted on each order. I rarely feel fully “safe” when I’m having to remove ingredients, but I felt 100% certain at Mama Fu’s that I wouldn’t have to worry about picking a rogue bell pepper out of my food. Mama Fu’s is fast casual, so once we ordered at the front counter we took a seat at a booth and our food was delivered to us as the kitchen prepared it.
Appetizers (All on the main menu)
Fresh Basil Spring Rolls ($4.99/$7.99): These spring rolls are just incredible. The rice paper is packed with noodles, fresh basil and mint, spring mix, peanuts, cucumbers, bean sprouts, and carrots and served with peanut hoisin dipping sauce. They’re light, refreshing, and perfectly compiled so that you can dip them into the sauce without them falling apart. The vegetables are all markedly fresh and tender and you can taste each one individually, which I appreciated. The basil is the predominant flavor of the mix. I also loved the slightly tacky texture of the rice paper; it made it easy to handle.
Potstickers ($4.95/$7.95): Potstickers win me over just about every time and these are no exception. The ginger soy sauce that comes with them for dipping (potsticker sauce) just makes them melt when you eat them. You can order the potstickers either steamed or crispy. We went with the crispy on this order and were not disappointed in the light, crunchy texture. They were stuffed with flavorful salty pork, cabbage, and scallions.
Crab Rangoons ($4.95/$7.95): These rangoons have my whole heart. Mama Fu’s doesn’t use imitation crab. Instead these are packed with real blue crab that you can taste in every bite. The crab is mixed with cream cheese and scallions for a sweet and savory balance in each crispy bite. The cream cheese filling is remarkably light and airy. They’re some of the best rangoons I’ve had in awhile. I was extremely impressed by this appetizer and even more by the price for that much real crab!
Pork Rolls: ($4.99/$7.99): For those who want more of the deliciously seasoned pork that is in the potstickers, the pork rolls are the way to go. These pork rolls are absolutely stuffed with savory pork, cabbage, carrots, celery, and onion and are served with a sweet chili sauce. I opted to dip them in the ginger soy sauce because I am more of a savory fan than a sweet fan, but those who like sweeter condiments will love the sweet chili sauce. It’s creamy and sweet with a low level of heat, definitely not overwhelming for those who don’t like spicy foods.
Alright, onto the entrees! After trying all those amazing appetizers, each of which we would order again, we were ready to delve into the entrees and see what other flavors Mama Fu’s had to offer. Mama Fu’s entrees are divided into “Classic”, “Adventurous”, and “Fearless”. Once you select an entree you choose a protein. Chicken, Baked 5 spice tofu, and fresh vegetables are included in the price, and pork tenderloin, sirloin, and farm raised shrimp are available for a small upcharge. I was delighted to see that tofu is NOT an upcharge! This is just another way Mama Fu’s goes above and beyond to provide lots of vegan and vegetarian options. There are also 9 sides with vegan, vegetarian, and meat inclusions that can be added for a small $1.99 charge.
Entrees (Marked as Black Market or main menu)
Pad Thai ($8.95 + shrimp $1.25, main menu): Mama Fu’s takes classic pad thai to a new level. Their pad thai is tossed with bean sprouts, carrots, scallions, egg, and rice noodles and also filled with savory tofu slices. The tofu is some of the most tender and flavorful tofu I’ve had in recent memory. Marinating tofu can be a tricky process to hold flavor in, but they do it very well at Mama Fu’s. We added shrimp to ours and the shrimp and tofu paired extremely well together. The shrimp were clearly fresh and cooked immaculately. I have a pet peeve on overcooked shrimp since we live on the coast and there was no problem with that in this dish. This simple, classic entree is a great choice for anyone new to Mama Fu’s or for anyone looking for a great vegan or vegetarian dish.
Thai Fire Curry ($8.95, Black Market Menu): This dish is marked as a Black Market menu favorite and there is a reason why. Seared chicken is simmered in a spicy Thai red coconut curry and seasoned with lemongrass, garlic, and ginger and tossed with bok choy, onion, carrot, and bean sprouts. It’s also garnished with fresh lime for a slight citrus flavor that lingers after each spicy bite. This dish is surprisingly light and refreshing with the lemongrass giving it a bright herbal flavor. I love this dish. I can’t talk enough about how much I love this dish. It’s worth joining the Mama Fu’s Club to have it. The curry is heavy on the vegetables and chicken and light on the cream part of the curry so the rice absorbs nearly all of it. I added sriracha because why not and that added the perfect heat level.
Spicy General Fu ($8.95, main menu): This is Mama Fu’s take on General Tso’s chicken and it takes it to a much more respectable level. I would wager 90% of our readers have had General Tso’s chicken before; it’s the starting point for most American-Chinese food endeavors. Mama Fu’s vibrant sweet chili garlic sauce coated the chicken, carrots, broccoli, and scallions and was softened with plenty of rice to mix in each bite. This entree’s heat level doesn’t hit you right away, so hold off on adding extra hot sauce until you have had a few bites. This is excellent for anyone new to Mama Fu’s or those craving simple comfort food.
Lemon Sriracha Stir Fry ($8.95, main menu): This entree we were a little divided on. I felt the lemon flavor was predominant and zesty but the sriracha fell short. This could be just because I like my food extra spicy and extra sriracha-y so that may be why I needed to add an extra boost of hot sauce. But, once my friend did that the entree was perfection. We were particularly taken with the sugar snap peas that were tossed with mushrooms, bok choy, celery, and basil over rice. They were crisp and we would have eaten a whole bowl of these by themselves. Looking over the menu later, I saw steamed edamame was a side option and I’d wager they are equally as delicious as the sugar snap peas.
Miso Sake Sirloin ($9.95, Black Market): I’m not a huge steak eater personally so I deferred to my friend’s opinion on the Miso Sake Sirloin and he loved it. The thin sliced sirloin is wok charred to give it a crispy salty crust and then it is covered with shiitake, white, and straw mushrooms. The Miso Sake sauce was slightly sweet compared with the salty steak and earthy mushrooms and it all paired brilliantly together. Mushroom lovers rejoice, this is how mushrooms should be prepared. You can tell the Black Market quality on this dish bc the depth of flavor in the sauce creates a much more dignified presentation of the steak and mushrooms.
Finally, on to desserts! These two desserts are available on the main menu all the time at Mama Fu’s and they are a great way to end any meal there. The Mango Sweet Sticky Rice ($4.29) was my favorite of our two choices. A sweetened ball of rice cooked in coconut milk until it nearly melts is absolutely drenched in mango coconut sauce, slices of mango, and fresh mint. For anyone who loves mango, this is the purest mango flavor possible. The warm, sweet coconut rice is a dessert in and of itself but paired with the fresh fruit and sweet mint, this is nearly an unbeatable dessert to me. It’s wonderful and authentically Thai. I’d order this on every visit. Our second dessert was the Mama’s Dessert Roll ($5.29), which gave us a sweet and savory flavor we didn’t expect. The dessert roll is a salted cheesecake rolled in a cinnamon pastry and served with an addictive raspberry sauce. We rolled each bite through the sauce and wished we had another side container of it. This is a hybrid blend of cheesecake and churro and should satisfy any sweet tooth.
I was so impressed with every level of this experience. From the warm and sincere greeting at the door to the huge customizable menu, then from the freshly prepared and flavorful food to the continued customer service throughout the meal. Mama Fu’s puts other fast casual restaurants to shame. It’s nearly a 30 minute drive from my house but I can say with confidence that I will be a regular due to this outstanding experience. Jeannie as a franchise owner has a visible passion for what she’s presenting to Jacksonville every day and it’s contagious – you can’t walk away without a smile. Mama Fu’s is quality food done right. Whether you’re in the mood for Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, or Vietnamese they have you covered, and they’ll impress you every time.
Note: From time to time we’re invited out to try a restaurant or to taste new menu items. This meal is usually comped, as this one was. We’re under no obligation to write a positive review or any review at all when we’re invited out to try a place. Every review you see on our site will be an honest review of the place whether or not the restaurant provided us with the meal at their cost.