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Chengdu Food

Liangfen, Chengdu Liangfen: mung bean jelly in chili oil

In 2010, Chengdu was named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. It’s not hard to see why, when there are restaurants and street vendors serving mouth-wateringly delicious dishes and snacks on pretty much every street. It really is a place where food is taken seriously and done well.

Chengdu food falls under the banner of Sichuan Cuisine, which is one of the Eight Regional Cuisines of China. Below are some of the more popular dishes on offer in Chengdu.

Dishes

mapo tofu Mapo ('pockmarked granny') tofu

In most Sichuan restaurants in Chengdu, you’ll find the full range of Sichuan classics on offer, which you can find out more about here. The most famous Sichuanese dishes that you really must try while in Chengdu are:

  • Pockmarked grandma's tofu: soft bean curd served with a spicy topping of minced beef in a bean-based sauce
  • Dry-fried green beans: fried with chili and preserved vegetables, these green beans are blistering on the outside but tender within
  • Boiled fish in a spicy, chili-oil sauce
  • Twice-cooked pork: the meat is first boiled before it's stir-fried in a salty and hot sauce and served with scallions
  • Kung pao chicken: spicy chicken pieces stir-fried with peanuts and cubes of the local asparagus lettuce
  • Fish fragrant pork: shredded pork fried in a sweet, salty ‘fish flavored’ sauce that really doesn’t taste of fish at all

Chuanchuan Xiang

chuanchuanChengdu's "chuanchuan" skewer hotpot

This is Chengdu’s own version of the famous Chongqing hotpot. There are chuanchuan (串串 — the Chinese is aptly skewer-like!) restaurants all over the city, and all work in much the same way:

First, choose your skewers of raw ingredients from the large fridges at the back of the restaurant. Popular choices include quail eggs, shrimp dumplings, tofu and an assortment of different local mushrooms. Once you’ve made your selection, hand your tray of skewers to one of the waitresses, who boil them in a spicy hotpot, and take a seat.

While you’re waiting, choose a dipping sauce to accompany your skewers when they arrive: the dry sauce (干碟 gāndié) of ground peanuts, chili powder and cilantro is excellent.

Chengdu Snacks

Dandan noodles, Chengdu Dandan noodles

There’s a huge range of savorysnacks on offer in Chengdu. The following are some of the more famous options:

  • Hongyou chaoshou: Wontons (a dumpling of minced pork meat) served in a spicy, sweet sauce of chili oil, vinegar and garlic.
  • Fuqi feipian (‘Husband and Wife Lung Slices’): Thin slices of beef and beef offal served in a vinaigrette-like sauce of chili oil, Sichuan peppercorns, garlic, vinegar and sugar. It can be served hot or as a cold appetizer.
  • Liangfen: Cold slices of mung bean jelly are served in a sauce of chili oil, Sichuan peppercorns, sugar, vinegar and garlic. The delicate-textured jelly is more as a vessel for the moreish hot-numbing chili sauce than anything else.
  • Dandan noodles: Served with a small portion of fried minced meat on top, these noodles most often come in a spicy sauce of chili oil and Sichuan pepper.

Chengdu Menu Decoder

English Chinese characters Pinyin pronunciation
Skewers of meat or vegetables cooked in a spicy, oily hotpot broth
串串香
chuànchuànxiāng
Husband and wife lung slices
夫妻肺片 fūqī fèipiàn
Wonton served in a sweet chili oil
红油抄手
hóngyóu chāoshǒu
Cold slices of mung bean jelly in a spicy vinaigrette sauce
凉粉
liángfěn
Dandan noodles
担担面
dàndan miàn
Pockmarked grandma's tofu
麻婆豆腐
mápó dòufu
Dry-fried green beans
干煸四季豆
gānbiān sìjìdòu
Boiled fish in a spicy chili-oil sauce
水煮鱼
shuǐzhǔ yú
Twice-cooked pork
回锅肉
huíguō ròu
Kung pao chicken
宫保鸡丁
gōngbào jīdīng
Fish fragrant pork
鱼香肉丝
yúxiāng ròusī

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