Oct 2013

“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.

Dan Dan Tian Shui Mian - Chengdu

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…

Dan Dan Tian Shui Mian - Chengdu

Dan Dan Tian Shui Mian - Chengdu

…followed by dan dan mian

Dan Dan Tian Shui Mian - Chengdu

Dan Dan Tian Shui Mian - Chengdu

…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.

There’s something magical about eating regional specialties at their birthplace, like lobster rolls in Maine or xiao long bao in Shanghai, and now, Sichuan classics in Sichuan.

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:


Hong Kong




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

  1. Let’s make sure credit is given where credit is due as Maine is not the birthplace of the lobster roll nor the lobster salad roll.

    The lobster roll was first originated at a restaurant named Perry’s, in Milford, Connecticut as early as 1929, according to John Mariani’s, “Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink.” Once Perry’s put the new sandwich on its menu, its popularity spread up and down the Connecticut coast, but not far beyond. For those residing in Connecticut, a lobster roll served warm in clarified butter is simply called a “lobster roll” while the lobster roll served cold as it is throughout the rest of the northeast region and the world is called a “lobster salad roll” . The lobster salad roll took off on the Eastern End of Long Island, New York, starting in 1965, pioneered by the Lobster Roll Restaurant

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