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April 3rd, 2012

Doing my Homework: Eating in Chengdu


Getting better at cooking Sichuan food is only half the reason I am in Chengdu. The other half is eating in all those splendid authentic restaurants and snack stalls! For research purposes, of course.


Zhong dumplings 钟水饺 in a very popular canteen at Wuhou Temple Street were divine. The skins were elastic and substantial; the filling was a tender pocket of meat that held together well. I simply never tasted such an intense and sweet garlicky sauce before; and the sour and spicy sauce was almost better. The bowl on the upper right is douhua in sour sauce 酸豆花 -- a feast of lovely textures: airy tofu, crisp deep-fried dough sticks and peanuts.


Flaky pastry sweetened with bean paste and prunes (on top) and also flaky 'sandwiches' with sesame-walnut filling, resembling baklava, but not as sweet.

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One of the evenings we tried Zigong cuisine, of which (for now) I know little except that it's defined by Zigong's history of a being a salt capital. Everything we tried in this restaurant called 呵细 was complex and balanced.

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We ate a fish in rich peppery stew, beef slices in chili oil...

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...and a marvelous grainy and tender rice dessert (its deep-fried crust was dusted with crushed peanuts).

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It was inevitable that we'd eat in the famed Chen's Mapo Tofu restaurant very soon into our stay in Chengdu.

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The tofu (firmer than usual) was enshrouded in smoky sauce; it was served still sizzling, in a heated pot.

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Chengdu snacks are pleasantly cheap.

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In a glassed-in kitchen a small lady whips up the best liangfen 凉粉 in the universe.

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Cold bean noodle 凉粉 (that we call sline) comes in a couple dozen of sauces and extra toppings like bean sprouts. We went for the classics: yellow sline with mala 麻辣 (numbing and spicy) sauce and noodly sline in suanla 酸辣 (sour and spicy) sauce.

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Near Wenshu Monastery there is a street of teahouses (one of the many in Chengdu, I'm sure).

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Huamaofeng tea from Mount Emei is wonderfully tart and refreshing; it keeps on 'playing' for hours on end. But to make the teahouse experience perfect next time, we need to bring cards, backgammon, or books.

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Strolling past a peppercorn shelf in a local supermarket one is enshrouded in waves of minty fragrance that's only comparable to wafts of ozone or freshly cut grass. I felt I was at a holy shrine (and probably looked it, as I was waving my hands over the peppercorn box and actually feeling the cooling sensation on my palms).