To start off, u need to choose any restaurant (good and reputable) within Chengdu city and try their hot, sweating-like-sauna, local specialty hotpot. I thought it was going to be similar to the one I eat in Beijing since hotpot is generally a northern dish which usually contains boiling broth dipped with huge chunks of meats usually mutton or beef and some vegetables plus mushrooms.
Favorite Dish: It's a challenging dish that needs a lot of tolerance for its fiery, hot, burn, gum numbing effects - good to eat during winter though!
Among the eight major cuisines of China, Sichuan cuisine is the most popular.
Chuan Dish is an example of Sichuan cuisine. Sichuan cooking has a long history and has become famous for its special flavour. Sichuan is known for its attention to color, smell, and presentation with an emphasis on taste. Sichuan is well known for the richness, broadness and thickness of its taste. It is mainly composed of "numbing, hot, salty, sweet, sour, bitter and fragrant". The flexible combination of different flavors creates several compounded tastes such as numb and hot, sour and hot, red pepper oil and white pepper oil, among others. The richness and excellence of flavor helps rank Sichuan the top Chinese dish. It has won the praise of "one dish, one style, a hundred dishes, a hundred tastes".
Sichuan dish is good at agile exertion and specific managing according to material, climate and the diners' requests. More that 30 methods of cooking are included --- stir fry, sauté, deep fry, grill, preserve, bittern, bake and pickle.
As the production develops and economy prospers, Sichuan absorbs the strength of northern and southern food to form a fusion between a northern dish with Sichuan style and a southern dish with Sichuan taste. It is complemented as "Food in China, taste in Sichuan."
Sichuan concentrates on the changing of taste, which differs in thickness and heaviness. You can not make a Sichuan dish without chili, prickly ash and pepper. Chili, for example, can be used in various ways. Sometimes it can be the main ingredient, or sometimes it can be a secondary ingredient used for seasoning. The taste of Sichuan can differ largely according to climate and the diner's personal tastes. For instance, the hotness is quite rich in winter and spring because the weather is cold. However the hotness should be reduced by 30% in summer and autumn due to the warm and dry weather. The taste of Sichuan is very delicate and flexible. Therefore, Sichuan is famous for its rich, thick and heavy flavor in addition to its lightness.
This Sichuan hotpot is no ordinary hotpot - it has onion, garlic and chili, but also the mind-blowing seeds known as 'Sichuan Peppers' or "Huajiao"! In fact, you can request the waiter/waitresses (fuwuyuan) to reduce the amount of these seeds in your hotpot. If u can't take it but still want to try it, then take the half hot and half light, chicken stock hotpot. That's what we did. Unfortunately, some of the hot soup (while boiling, it did a high jump and landed the other side) sort of got into my chicken stock; hence, making it hot too.
Favorite Dish: Well, this hot pot is different from any other hot pots I've tried - these Sichuanese seems to favor an oily-red broth that can really set one's eyes stinging or on fire. My tourmate, HouJing, got her eye stung by one of the spurts made by the boiling, bubbling, fiery-like valcano broth that she needed to wash her eyes with plenty of water. As for me, I was choking unbearably with my eyes being smoked to tears - at that moment, I can almost hear the song "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" BUT I must admit the hot pot was GOOD!
We were looking for a place to have sichuan hotpot, a dish special to this region. We eventually found this restaurant at the end of a long shopping street. We were the only customers in it which wasn't a good sign. They had a sign in the window saying 'hotpot for all seasons', but when we went in they didnt have a hotpot menu, saying that they have a set price for groups. There were 6 of us so that meant around 15 small dishes for 18yuan each. It was quite diasppointing though as the hotpot was a really small dish and not that spicey or tasty! Also, it seems that in Sichuan, the sauce you get is sesame oil with garlic. My favourite however is the peanut sauce...boo hoo!
Favorite Dish: We also ordered a plate of beef noodles which were fairly good and reasonably priced at 12yuan. The beer was the most expensive at 6yuan a bottle. In Beijing, the bottles are two yuan each!!!! Anyway, we were full by the end of it, with the manager actually adding two more meat dishes for free (not sure why?but well received!).
And from there we headed off to the bar street!
Remember the Spice Girls? Well those girls can't beat this Chengdu hotpot. I tried a spoonful of it and boy, it was definitely a mind-blowing experience that leaves my tongue and gum numb for half an hour before it comes to live again. Anything I eat at that time seems to be tasteless for awhile. I think it's a good idea to have this HOTPOT before one wants to visit the dentist for tooth extraction! At least, your gums are numb before the extraction and it saves you some money for the anaesthetic too. Ha! Ha! Ha!
Favorite Dish: P/S: Drink milk or soya bean drink to sooth the burn in your mouth; please don't try with gassy, soft drinks - you'll make it worse! Better still, make sure you have the Fire Dept. phone number in hand when you want to put out the 'fire' in your mouth.
The dishes in the vegetarian restaurant of the Wenshu temple have names like: pork intestines in brown sauce, beef with rice, chicken with noodles and more. But the trick is they are all vegetarian, made of soy products, but it has the color and texture of the above mentioned. The bacon really tasted like crunchy baked bacon, and the beef got stuck between our teeth like beef sometimes does. We were amazed, and maybe a little suspicious.......was it really vegetarian ??
For a hotpot, they bring out spiced oil and vegetable broth and boil it in a cooker on the table. Then they bring out all kinds of noodles, vegetables, and meats and you put them in the oil or broth to cook, and scoop them out and eat. It's absolutely delicious and a Sichuanese cultural experience.
The place is just a snack bar serving .. the usuals.... but they also have instant coffee.. which can be a wonderful thing during a cold rain down.. when you have no energy.... make sure you plan to pass it on your way up the mountain... I am an avid green tea drinker.. but sometimes you just need a coffee to wake you up!
There are many hotpot restaurants all across Chengdu..... and the one we went to was on Remlimnanlu..... there was a well used english menu written on a piece of paper.. with all the things you can choose to have in your pot..... they will recommend some crazy things like eyeballs, and various organs that should never be eaten... but we insisted on choosing our own items...
enjoy, have fun... and be prepared to have alot of people stare at you!!!
None of the staff in this restaurant spoke much English, and our attempts at Mandarin were met with puzzlement and laughter (in our defense, the Sichuan dialect is very different!), but none of that mattered. Since we couldn't read the menu, our friendly waitress took us on a tour of the restaurant to see what other diners were enjoying and point out what we wanted to try, and nobody minded at all!
In the middle of our table was a massive pot of stew sunk over a brazier; divided into two halves, one filled with a dark red, fiercesomely hot and spicy and full of orangy fat and chilli peppers, while the other side contained a pale chicken broth - the 'wimp soup'! Then our choices started to arrive; lots of little plates similar to tapas. We had potatoes, strips of beef, mushrooms, noodles, tofu and ham, all of which came raw for you to chuck into the pot and cook. Once ready, you fish them out with your chopsticks, dip them in individual pots of oil and garlic, and enjoy!
It's a good place to take a large group of people and spend several hours over your dinner with a few beers. Lots of the parties of Chinese men were having to strip their tops off, they were sweating so much from the spices! Our selections, plus 2 soft drinks, came to 68Y.
This restaurant is located in the south of the city where there are loads of restaurants and is best reached by taking bus No.55 if staying in the north of the city. This is serious carnivore food as you'd expect from a Tex Mex. I had 2 good smallish steaks as part of one dish, fries, veg and garlic bread plus a small bottle of beer for Y100.
HOT POT doesn't necessarily mean that it's Sichuan hot. In most of the Chengdu hot pot restaurants where we dine you get a divided wok. One side is the sizzling hot chili oil and the other side is a sort of chicken stock. You can dip your food in the wild side or the mild side or both (meat, vegetables, whatever). So hot pot doesn't have to be so hot!
Favorite Dish: In Chengdu we've never had a bad meal or a big bill (by U.S. standards). I've enjoyed everything from hot pot to tofu restaurants (even Ma Po Tofu which can be pretty spicy). One place I really enjoy is the Minshan hotel. The restaurant on the top is elegant and not very expensive with lots of Chinese specialities. It's a great place to take guests because the view is wonderful (all around the city). Service is superb.
Another major hotel, the Jin Jang is also good but more expensive and not as good as Minshan. We did dine several times at the Jin Jang and once in their Japanese restaurant which I wouldn't recommend. It was OK but not up to what it should be at the price, I would only rate it as fair.
The real deal is at the smaller restaurants, and places like the Wenshu Temple which has a superb Buddhist vegetarian restaurant where you would swear there was meat in some of the dishes. They do a superb job of making vegetable / tofu seem like meat!!!
there's this little shop in this little street in Chengdu, right next to the Dragon Guest House (maybe Dragon Youth Hostel?), We spent 3 weeks in China, and that was the only time we felt really relaxed...sipping tea and slurping noodles and watching the people live in this small backward street, playing Mah Jong on little tables outdoors in the evening, trying to cool down with hand held fans, sipping tea and of course everybody knows each other. It's an area which is fairly old for China, from what we heard the govnt. wants to tear it down to rebuild, so it may not be there anymore (we went in 2003). That would really be a pity. There's an old world feel to the whole place which we didn't encounter anywhere else (we haven't been to Beijing). At the end of the street, in the evening, there are lots of street vendors, barbecued meat and fish and sea food, fried stuff. Lots of fun.
There are a few cafes on each side of the guest house, but the only one we went to was the little shop on the left. The little old man was really nice, and his neighbors were nice too. The bald foreigner on the photo is my husband. Most tourists at the guest house go to the cafe on the right, probably because they serve more tourist food and beer.
Favorite Dish: I can't say it's a noodle shop, it's more like an old man selling tea and bowls of noodles to make a little bit of money. He serves several kinds of tea and a few kinds of noodle soups, with bits of egg, vegetables, meat or fish or vegetables. We went in and pointed at what we wanted. Absolutely no English spoken. The noodles are really nice although simple and cheap, pretty spicy Chengdu style.
Not sure about the Chinese name of the restaurant, but it's very well known among locals and tourists, although we didn't see any tourists the 2 times we went. The original famous Sichuan Tofu dish with minced meat and tofu in a spicy sauce. In Japan, it's become "Japanese" (like pizza in the US), so we really wanted to try the original. Well it was quite a shock. Nothing to do with the Japanese washed out version, not only "hot spicy", but with lots of spices and tasty and authentic. It was an eye opening experience after a lifetime spent eating Japanese Mabo Tofu.
The service at the restaurant is very very average. No English spoken, but apparently somewhat understood. We went there twice and tried other dishes, the most interesting ones are still the tofu dishes, we also had some good soups.
Downstairs is more casual, for a quick meal, and upstairs is more of a dining place with round tables, but the prices are the same I think and the atmosphere is Chinese at both -- eat , enjoy the food and no frills.
They sell the Ma Po Dou Fu mix and we bought some and tried it at home, but it wasn't very good. Maybe we didn't have the right ingredients, or maybe it just wasn't the right environment.
Across the street there's a Tao temple (I think) where we had tea outside in the temple grounds, quite pleasant.
Favorite Dish: The restaurant specializes in Tofu (Dou fu or Dao fu in Chinese, Tofu is Japanese). There was one dish which we really liked: it said "flower tofu" on the menu, and it's actually "flower" like when we say "flower salt" in France -- meaning the finest. "Flower tofu" is tofu made with a much finer strainer to obtain a lighter and smoother texture, without becoming like what we call "silk tofu" in Japan (because it was passed through silk as opposed to rougher "cotton tofu"). Japanese tofu doesn't really taste of soy bean and is really bland, but Chinese tofu retains that soy bean taste. Flower tofu is so fine textured that it doesn't hold as well as the usual tofu, so it looks like it's shaped in a bowl and turned over. The Flower tofu dish is not spicy, it comes in a whitish sauce with greens, and may seem a bit bland if you only like spicy strong tasting stuff, but we really liked it -- it makes you realize what tofu should really taste like. It was a nice contrast with the spicy Ma Po Dou Fu. Oh by the way, we're Japanese so we could sort of read the menu in Chinese "flower tofu" was written in Chinese characters, I don't know whether they have an English menu and I don't know how they have translated it into English.
Short on ambience but abundant with grime, Chen Ma Po Doufu's speciality is tofu with ground pork and chilli. Or more precisely, chilli with a little tofu and ground pork.
The chilli flavour is known as 'la'; the numbing Sichuan peppercorn flavour is known as 'ma'. Together in this quantity to a laowai like me, it's more like "ma la waaaaaahhhh!".
Spicy! Very spicy. Make sure you beg for a glass of peanut milk. But for less than a dollar, you can't go wrong and it totally cleared up my burgeoning cold.