Archive for the 'Chinese' Category

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Yulin Comprehensive Market – Chengdu

Yulin Comprehensive Market - Chengdu - Sichuan - China

Exploring local markets, carefully selecting souvenirs and nibbling from stall to stall, is one of my all-time favorite things to do while on the road.

Reflecting on recent trips, my mind drifts to the sunny afternoon The Astronomer and I spent picnicking outside Valencia’s Mercado Central (those strawberries!), and the lovely walk along the canals of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue at the Sunday market in Provence (those sausages!).

Yulin Comprehensive Market - Chengdu - Sichuan - China

While in Chengdu, we made equally splendid memories at Yulin Comprehensive Market, which was tucked behind an extensive housing complex and surrounded by a bustling park.

Just outside the market’s entrance were clusters of local folks sipping tea, chatting, and gambling. Chengdu residents are famous for their laid back lifestyle.

Yulin Comprehensive Market - Chengdu - Sichuan - China

Our first snack of the day was freshly fried and served up warm…

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“Cold Pot Fish” at Yu Yue Men Leng Guo Yu (and getting ma la wasted) – Chengdu

Yu Yue Men Leng Guo Yu Hot Pot Restaurant - Chengdu

Do Chengdu residents eat spicy, numbing, oil-slicked delights at every meal? The Astronomer and I often wondered this during our Sichuan stay. Though we were never able to confirm locals’ dining habits, we consciously dedicated every meal to the stuff that burns, really burns, because we wanted to experience Chengdu’s cuisine to the fullest.

The spiciest meal of the trip, the one that made me feel downright intoxicated from all the chilies and peppercorns, was at Yu Yue Men Leng Guo Yu*, an emporium of communal dining.

Yu Yue Men Leng Guo Yu Hot Pot Restaurant - Chengdu

The only dish served here is “Cold Pot Fish” (leng guo yu), a Sichuan specialty in which perfectly cooked fish fillets, usually Silver Carp, are served in a “cold” hot pot to begin; the broth’s actual temperature is lukewarm. The hot pot’s burners are turned on when all of the fish has been eaten to avoid over-cooking the fish. Then, it’s a traditional hot pot experience complete with veggies, noodles, meat, and the like!

Yu Yue Men Leng Guo Yu Hot Pot Restaurant - Chengdu

In a futile attempt to keep the avalanche of numbing spice at bay, I sipped on Chinese Sunny-D, while The Astronomer chugged some beer.

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Quintessential Sichuan Noodles and Dumplings Served with a Smile at Ren Yi Shui Jiao – Chengdu

Ren Yi Shui Jiao – Chengdu

The Astronomer and I traversed large swaths of Chengdu seeking out all that burns, numbs, and thrills during our much-too-short stay, but it was a low-key, family-run restaurant a stone’s throw from our hotel that delighted us most.

Named after Confucian principles (ren meaning kindness and yi meaning loyalty or trust), Ren Yi Shui Jiao specializes in two of my all-time favorite foods: noodles and dumplings (shui jiao). It was the perfect spot to fuel up every morning before playing with pandas and, truth be told, fueling up elsewhere. Such is life while on vacation.

Ren Yi Shui Jiao – Chengdu

The restaurant was wonderfully quiet during the morning hours, with ladies folding dumplings in the back, cooks simmering soups in the kitchen, and solo diners burying their noses in noodles. The mood of the place made us feel relaxed, while smiles on everyone’s faces made us feel welcomed.

Ren Yi Shui Jiao – Chengdu

Ordering food was a breeze thanks to the extensive picture menu hanging near the doorway. I wanted one of everything.

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“Old Chengdu Traditional Dishes” at Dan Dan Tian Shui Mian – Chengdu

Dan Dan Tian Shui Mian - Chengdu

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.

Dan Dan Tian Shui Mian - Chengdu

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.”

Dan Dan Tian Shui Mian - Chengdu

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 oilWe 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.

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