“Home Common Food” and the Best Bite of the Trip at Zha Zha Mian Jia Chang Cai – Chengdu

"Home Common Food" at Zha Zha Mian Jia Chang Cai - Chengdu

I had my sights set on a down home, classically Sichuan “fly restaurant” called Ming Ting for my final supper in Chengdu. This bare-bones eatery earned its nickname because it is said to attract diners like flies.

As was usually the case in China whenever I had my heart set on a particular dining destination, we were unable to locate it due to a lack of a proper address. After wandering down Jinfangyuan Road for 45 minutes in search of the illusive Ming Ting, we finally called it quits and ducked inside Zha Zha Mian Jia Chang Cai for a taste of ”home common food.”

"Home Common Food" at Zha Zha Mian Jia Chang Cai - Chengdu

I selected this restaurant on the fly (ha!) because the cold appetizers out front looked promising, while the men drinking outside were having a jolly time. Our dinner at Zha Zha Mian Jia Chang Cai ended up being one of my favorites of the entire trip.

We selected a trio of cold appetizers to start, including snappy green beans and shredded potatoes, wilted just so and lightly dressed. Both were simple, straightforward, and fantastic.

"Home Common Food" at Zha Zha Mian Jia Chang Cai - Chengdu

Taking a cue from the friendly business man dining beside us, we also ordered a serving of the head cheese. Dressed in numbing and spicy chili oil and a smattering of green onions, this cold appetizer left us feeling warm and fuzzy.

"Home Common Food" at Zha Zha Mian Jia Chang Cai - Chengdu

The same businessman insisted that we sample the twice-cooked pork, which turned out to be the best dish I tasted in Chengdu!

The process of preparing this Sichuan specialty involves simmering pork belly in water and aromatics, refrigerating the belly until firm, slicing it thinly, and then cooking it once more in a scorching wok. The result was intensely flavorful meat with beautifully caramelized edges simply flavored with scallions and chili oil. The best!

"Home Common Food" at Zha Zha Mian Jia Chang Cai - Chengdu

Our final dish was the “fish fragrant eggplant,” a quintessential Sichuan preparation that imbues silky aubergines with a hot, sour, salty, and sweet flavor profile. Fuchsia Dunlop waxes poetic about this dish in her memoir Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper, which I was reading while on the road, so I was especially stoked to dig in. Eaten with heaps of steamed jasmine rice, the eggplant was as satisfying and delicious as I had hoped.

Although unplanned, this meal of Sichuan-style  home cooking on our final night in town proved to be perfect in every way. Mmm!

Chengdu Chopstick Sculpture

I’m gonna miss this place!

Zha Zha Mian Jia Chang Cai (click on link for Google map)
Chengdu, Sichuan, China

Our previous culinary exploits in the People’s Republic of China:

Beijing

Chengdu

Hong Kong

Kunming

Shanghai

Xi’an

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