Guide to Chengdu Eats Tours – Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China
Guide to Chengdu Eats
About this place
Chengdu is legendary throughout China for spicy food and superior eats. For visitors spending a short time in town don’t worry as much about eating at any specific restaurant, rather just be sure to try as many of these Chengdu specialties as you can.
Huo Guo (火锅) - Hotpot. If you can’t locate a hotpot restaurant within 100 meters of where you stand, then you had better check your map, because you aren’t in Chengdu. Hotpot is the definitive meal of Chengdu and is often equated with the personalities of the local Chengdu citizens. If you are afraid of spicy food, try to work up some courage for hotpot. Eat slowly, the spice isn’t as much overwhelming as it is delicious. Add some vinegar, soy sauce, or oyster sauce to your plate to deaden the spice if you are struggling. At the restaurant first inform the staff as to whether you want spicy or not spicy hotpot. They can actually put a divider into the pot to provide you with both options. Then put a mark next to all of the meats, vegetables, and tofu you want to try on a checklist/menu given to you by the staff. Sometimes there will be an English menu as well, so just ask. Once the raw foods are brought to your table, dump them into the pot and let them cook. A few minutes later you will understand the lives of Chengdu residents that much more.
Shao Kao (烧烤) – Chinese Barbecue. These charcoal grills get fired up after the sun sets. Pick up a tray or basket from the vendor and pile on any kind of meat, seafood, vegetable, or tofu you can find from their assortment. The items are all diced up and placed on wooden skewers. Generally meat and seafood skewers cost Y1-2, while tofu and vegetable skewers are 5 jiao/mao (half of one yuan). Don’t forget to instruct the vendor as to what amount of spicy ‘la jiao’ you want: ‘duo’ for a lot, ‘wei la’ for a little bit, and ‘bu yao la’ for none. Other ingredients you can control with the same measure words are salt – ‘yan’, garlic – ‘suan’, and oil – ‘you’.
Tie Ban Shao (铁板烧) – Many smaller Shao Kao restaurants also offer this style of stir-fry. After you pick out the skewers you want to eat, they are first deep fried in oil for a minute or two. The food is then removed from the skewers and diced and stir-fried on a griddle. This is where they will add the ingredients as you instruct them. They can also add rice to the mix for an extra Y1-2. This method uses a lot of oil, but like everything else, is quite tasty.
Chuan Chuan Xiang (串串香) and Ma La Tang (麻辣烫) – This is an excellent way to test your spicy food eating capacity. These restaurants have large bowls of spicy chili peppers and other spices floating in boiling water over a flame. You pick out as many skewers as you want for 1 jiao/mao each and then cook them in the pot yourself. Usually patrons will have a dish of sesame oil with the option of garlic to deaden the taste a bit. Oyster sauce is commonly added to the mix as well.
Zhong Shui Jiao Dumplings (钟水饺) – This is Chengdu’s special dumpling. They are dumplings filled with pork and vegetables served in a soy sauce mixed with sugar, diced garlic, sesame, and a bit of salt. The sauce might sound a little unusual, but hey, since you’ve already traveled half way around the globe to come to Chengdu, it makes sense to give it a try. They are aboslutely delicious.
Chao Shou (抄手) – This treat is similar to dumplings, but they are made differently. They have a thinner flour skin and different shape than typical dumplings. These cousins of dumplings are also stuffed with pork usually. This Chengdu specialty is served in a soup. You have the option of soup with or without spice, and they taste like two completely different dishes depending on youir choice.
Jian Dan Mian (剪蛋面） - These tasty and salty tomato and egg noodles are a favorite of late night diners in Yulin. A well known place is on Yulin Zhonglu (玉林中路） near the intersection with Yulin Dong/Xi Lu.
Sichuan Dishes: Local restaurants serving generally stir fried dishes offer too many favorites to name, so we'll toss a few well known ones out here to get you started:
Hui Guo Rou 回国肉 - Twice or Double Cooked Pork, everyone's favorite
Tang Cu Li Ji 糖醋里脊 - Sweet and Sour Pork, usually more sweet than sour
Gong Bao Ji Ding 宫爆鸡丁 - Kung Pao Chicken, naturally quite spicy, but peanuts make it memorable
Ma Po Dou Fu 麻婆豆腐 - Grandma's Pock-Marked Tofu, Sichuan's most famous soft tofu dish
Yu Xiang Rou Si 鱼香肉丝 - Fish-flavored Shredded Pork and Veggies, better than the description may sound, I promise
Jia Chang Dou Fu 家常豆腐 - Home-style Tofu, a thicker, harder type of tofu, clearly I'm not tofu expert
Shui Zhu Rou Pian 水煮肉片 - Sliced pork in a very spicy broth served with bok choy or cabbage usually
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