Sichuan, China is truly a place for foodies. Especially if you love spicy food, you are in paradise. I grew up in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. Although I have travelled to more than 20 countries by now, I would still say that Chengdu is one of my favorite places to eat in the world. It’s not only me who is biased. Ask any Chinese or foreign visitors who have visited this city before, and see their face light up on the mention of its cuisine. Sichuan food’s bold flavors are really unforgettable. UNESCO declared Chengdu to be a city of gastronomy in 2011 to recognize the sophistication of its cooking. If you have the chance to visit Chengdu, here are some food you must try.
1. Sichuan Hot pot
Of course this has to be at the top of the list. Sichuan is the birthplace of hot pot. Different meats and vegetables are cooked in a big pot of flavorful broth and are eaten with a dipping sauce. Hot pot is eaten all over China, but Sichuan hot pot is the most famous for its unique spicy flavor. Don’t be too intimated if you really can’t take the spice though. You can get pots with half spicy and half non-spicy broths. The clear broth is mellow but still very fragrant. It’s a great meal for socializing and sharing with family and friends.
2. Mapo Tofu
Mapo Tofu is arguably Sichuan’s most famous dish. It’s loved not only in China, but all over the world. Where better to eat it than in Chengdu, where the dish originated from! Visit Chen Mapo Tofu 陈麻婆豆腐, a China time-honored brand designated by the government. Located in the Qingyang district, the restaurant has more than 100 years history. Their tofu is hot, spicy, soft and so fragrant!
3. Chao Shou
Chao shou（抄手）is a Sichuan-style Wonton that is very popular in Chengdu. Juicy and plump pork wontons are served in a bowl of delicious soup. Where can you try it? I recommend Long Chao Shou龙抄手 in the Jinjiang district. It’s another famous old brand from Chengdu. Besides delicious wontons, they also serve many other local dishes. You can get a taste set and try a little bit of everything!
4. Dan dan noodles
Have you heard of dan dan noodles (担担面) before? Well, Chengdu is where you are going to eat the REAL dan dan noodles. Fresh noodles are served with minced pork, vinegar, salt, sugar, chili oil, chopped peanuts and sesame. Its savory, spicy and nutty flavors will just blow your mind. Walk down the street and you’ll find many vendors selling this dish. It’s quite easy to find as it’s a quintessential Sichuan food.
5. Guo Kui
Guo Kui (锅盔) is a Sichuan style flatbread. Inside is usually stuffed with minced pork or beef. Or it can be a sweet filling like brown sugar. The bread is cooked on a hot griddle until crispy and sprinkled with sesame. I used to eat this for breakfast often as a child. It’s super delicious, cheap and easy to grab as a take out from many restaurants.
6. Fu qi fei pian
Fu qi fei pian (夫妻肺片) is a very satisfying cold appetizer. It literally translates to “husband and wife beef lung slices”. However, the dish actually rarely contains lung. Thinly sliced beef tripes and tendons are tossed in a chilli vinaigrette with garlic, vinegar, Sichuan peppercorn, peanuts and chopped cilantros. This dish is not only spicy, but mouth numbing thanks to the Sichuan peppercorn. Sichuan peppercorn produces a tingly numbing feeling in the mouth and is a key ingredient that gives Sichuan food its unique taste.
7. La zi Chicken
La zi Chicken (辣子鸡) is another famous Sichuan food. The chicken is chopped into little pieces, marinated in soy sauce and other condiments, deep fried until crispy, and then stirred fried with a load chili, garlic and Sichuan peppercorn. It’s like a spicy version of popcorn chicken! I’ve always loved this dish. The little bites make eating it quite addicting.
8. Liang fen
Liang fen is a cold dish made of mung bean jelly. This is another dish that is uses spicy and numbing chilli paste as its base. When I was a child, this street food was the epitome of my summer vacations. Many vendors sell liang fen on the street. The cold slippery jelly is sweet and savory at the same time. It’s the perfect snack for a hot day.
9. Spicy marinated rabbit heads
This is a recommendation for the adventurous eaters. Rabbit meat is a very popular delicacy amongst the locals. In other parts of China, it’s much rarer to eat rabbits. But Chengdu residents just can’t get enough of it. The meat is very tender and succulent. Rabbit heads are especially a popular treat. The heads are carefully cleaned and marinated with many spices. If you can get over the fact that you are chewing on a bunny’s skull, you will soon get addicted to this slightly bizarre food.
10. Pig intestine
Another suggestion for those who dare. Do you cringe at offals? Well, that’s a shame because you will never know the tastiness of pig intestine. Chinese people have mastered cooking pretty much every body part of a pig. Intestine is especially something that is cooked in many ways. Braised, stir fried, made in soup… The fattiness goes so well in Sichuan cuisine! Try a pig intestine feast and you might just ask yourself “where have this been all my life?”
Going to Chengdu soon? There is more than just amazing food in this city. Check out 10 Thing To Do in Chengdu for suggestions on what to do, see and play.
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