Food and travel magazines can be terrific sources of inspiration, but I must admit that I found them pretty useless on the ground in China.
For our first meal in Sichuan Province, I had my sights set on a tempting place that Chef Danny Bowien and Bon Appetit Editor Andrew Knowlton visited on their trip, or maybe it was a spot that Matt Gross favored in Saveur; either way, both articles lacked any pertinent details, like proper addresses, that would’ve been immensely helpful for locating. Hard lesson learned: follow my nose, not fluffy journalism.
Thankfully in Chengdu, and most of China, really, a solid place to eat is never more than a few steps away. When Plan A didn’t work out the way we had hoped, The Astronomer and I spontaneously lunched at Dan Dan Tian Shui Mian, a well-known spot among locals (over 100 reviews on Chinese Yelp!) for “Old Chengdu Traditional Dishes.”
Every table in the restaurant was topped with the usual chopsticks, napkins, and vinegar, as well as bo bo ji, a large pottery bowl filled with skewers of chicken innards and vegetables soaked in chili oil. We weren’t sure if the skewers were complementary or not, but decided to wing it and dig in.
I indulged in surprisingly snappy lotus roots and asparagus, while The Astronomer sampled the cauliflower. The cost of the skewers was tabulated at the end of the meal. This was a really delicious and unexpected starter.
Using a crumpled copy of Chengdu Taste‘s menu that I serendipitously packed with me on the trip, The Astronomer and I managed to order a slew of our favorite Sichuan dishes without speaking a lick of Chinese. I’m not sure how we would’ve managed without this precious document!
First up, a bowl of spicy wontons…
…followed by dan dan mian…
…and finally, an impeccable rendition of cold garlic noodles.
Even though we hadn’t set out to dine at Dan Dan Tian Shui Mian, it proved to be a fabulous destination to get our feet wet in Sichuan. Compared to Sichuan food in Los Angeles, we found the spicing in Chengdu, both ma (numbing) and la (spicy), to be more subtle and nuanced. The dishes at Dan Dan Tian Shui Mian certainly made us sweat, but in a gentler fashion somehow.
Dan Dan Tian Shui Mian (click on link for Google map)
1 Jiangjun Street
Qingyang, Chengdu, Sichuan, China
Our previous culinary exploits in the People’s Republic of China:
- B-Ballin’ in Beijing
- Eating in Chaoyang
- Farewell Fuwa*
- Maison Boulud – Beijing
- Peking Duck at Da Dong (with a side of baseball)
- The Great Wall of China
- Track ‘n’ Snacks in the Bird’s Nest
- Bo Innovation
- Eating in Hong Kong I
- Eating in Hong Kong II
- Eating in Hong Kong III
- Eating in Hong Kong IV
- Happy Mid-Autumn Moon Festival
- Henan-Style Hand-Pulled Noodles at Zheng Zhong He Nan La Mian Guan – Shanghai
- Lánxīn Cāntīng – Shanghai
- Postcards from the Road: People’s Republic of China, Better Late than Censored
- Shanghai Suppin’: Dumpling Soup & Rice Cakes
- Striking Street Food Gold: 10 Fabulous Finds on South Yunnan Road – Shanghai
- Xiao Long Bao in Shanghai: Jia Jia Tang Bao
- Xiao Long Bao in Shanghai: Xiao Jin Ling