A blank and silky canvas, tofu gets the Sichuan treatment at this respected and popular Chengdu institution. Xiao Tan Dou Hua, literally “Little Tan’s Tofu Flower,” attracts a sizable crowd of local residents, business travelers, and the occasional tourist like The Astronomer and me at every meal.
We placed our order and paid upfront before snagging a seat in the dining room. As non-Chinese speakers, this protocol was incredibly frustrating because we weren’t able to apply our tried and true “point, nod, and smile” technique very easily.
A traveling businessman from Shanghai, well versed in English, Chinese, and deliciousness, sensed our distress and jumped in to save the day. We have him to thank for our most excellent meal here.
To start, we dug into a platter of beef steamed in rice meal (粉蒸肉). This classic Sichuan dish was prepared extraordinarily well—the meat was tender, delicately coated, and spiced just right.
Continue reading ‘Sichuan “Tofu Flower” Specialists at Xiao Tan Dou Hua – Chengdu’
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!).
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.
Our first snack of the day was freshly fried and served up warm…
Continue reading ‘Yulin Comprehensive Market – 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.
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!
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.
Continue reading ‘“Cold Pot Fish” at Yu Yue Men Leng Guo Yu (and getting ma la wasted) – 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.
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.
Ordering food was a breeze thanks to the extensive picture menu hanging near the doorway. I wanted one of everything.
Continue reading ‘Quintessential Sichuan Noodles and Dumplings Served with a Smile at Ren Yi Shui Jiao – Chengdu’