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.
Next up was the house-special soft tofu; we ordered the one with all the bells and whistles—chili oil, beef, crispy fried bits, scallions, and cilantro. We were instructed to give the bowl a good mash up before going at it.
All mixed up, the tofu took on the chili oil’s numbing spice, while the greenery brought a flourish of freshness. The fried noodle sticks provided crunch. This bowl had it all.
We also ordered the dou hua cao zi mian, tofu with noodles. This dish didn’t boast the textural contrast of its table mate, but it sure did comfort our bellies.
And lastly, a bowl of dan dan mian to fill my daily quota (and my heart with joy).
After averaging 2.5 bowls per day during my stay in Chengdu, I can say with confidence that a bad bowl of dan dan mian does not exist in the entire city.
Truth be told, a bad meal might not exist here either.
Xiaotan Douhua (click on link for Google map)
86 West Street
Qingyang, Chengdu, Sichuan, China
Phone: +86 28 8663 6172
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