I’m not at all squeamish when it comes to consuming unloved odds and ends, but it took some hardcore mental preparation to indulge in Chengdu’s beloved ma la rabbit head.
I chickened out at every opportunity to try this local delicacy up until the last possible moment, while waiting for our departing flight at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport. Last call…
The Astronomer and I arrived at the airport with time to spare before catching our early flight to Hangzhou. After exploring the airport’s various breakfast options, we settled on Cheng Du Ming Xiao Chi, a spot specializing in “Cheng Du Famous Snacks.”
I ordered a bowl of dan dan mian, of course. It was a solid rendition, but unavoidably bittersweet.
While slurping my last serving of dan dan mian on Sichuan soil, I perused a picture menu set on the table and saw that rabbit heads were offered here.
After much self-coaxing and reassurances by The Astronomer that he would “help” me eat the thing, I walked up to the cash register to place a second order.
Continue reading ‘Conquering Fears: Last Call for Rabbit Heads at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport’
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.”
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.
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.
Continue reading ‘“Home Common Food” and the Best Bite of the Trip at Zha Zha Mian Jia Chang Cai – Chengdu’
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’
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’