We had tickets to the 8pm show at the Opera House Chengdu, so we stopped into a random noodle shop on Kuanzhai Ancient Street. I ordered the spicy beef rice noodle soup and the pork dumplings. The soup was delicious, but the dumplings in Chengdu are on another level. The Opera House Chengdu show was a lot of fun.
Spicy beef rice noodle soup
Opera House Chengdu
We were invited to a vegan tasting menu by our hosts here in Chengdu. It was a surprising and wonderful experience. There was no menu so I had to decipher each course by taste only.
Mushroom ball in broth
Black mushroom & rice shu mai
Warm tomato soup with sesame biscuit
Salad with wasabi dressing and small bites
Mushroom & bamboo shoots with chilies and corn cake
Sweet pumpkin soup with tapioca
Eggplant fritter with sweet chili sauce
Sticky rice with mushroom and pumpkin-rice broth
After spending a few hours at the world’s largest panda reserve and breeding center, I headed back to my favorite noodle shop by my hotel. I finally had someone translate the the name on the sign out front which reads “Sister Liu’s Noodle Shop”. This time around I ordered the beef noodle soup. It wasn’t too spicy and had a fragrant star anise flavor. There were a few chunks of braised beef shank and shards of cabbage in the soup.
Do you enjoy cooking random animal parts in a bubbling caldron of stock and chili oil laced with Sichuan peppercorns? If so, then Sichuan hot pot is for you. Hot pot is a very interactive way of eating where various meats and vegetables are dropped into the boiling liquid and you fish them out at random. You then dip your item in a mixture of sesame oil and black vinegar seasoned with cilantro and msg. You actually get a choice of msg, plain or chicken flavored (I’m a chicken msg guy myself). Here’s a list of all the goodies that came with our hot pot: pork belly, pork throat, pork sausage, crispy fried pork, meatballs, duck intestines, duck feet, duck kidneys, beef tripe, baby catfish, black tofu, tofu skin, enoki mushrooms, bean sprouts, potato, winter melon, casava root, lotus root and noodles.
You can’t come to Chengdu and not go to a tea house. I initially went to tea house next to my hotel, but no one there spoke any English so I walked around the area until I found what looked to be another tea house. It was located next to a western style beer house, when suddenly the owner of the beer house Hugo comes out and asks “are you looking for some beer?”. I replied no, that I was looking for some tea. He took me next door to the tea house and helped me order. I told him that I wanted to to a tasting of different teas. Hugo told me that Chinese don’t drink different teas at one sitting, but instead pick one tea and continue to brew the same leaves as the flavor changes after each brewing. Hugo told me that red tea was particularly popular in Chengdu. I went with his recommendation and enjoyed four brews of the red tea. The flavor seemed to get more intense after each brew. They only steeped the tea for a few seconds each time.
After the noodle shop, we visited Jinli pedestrian street. This is the equivalent of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. It’s a maze of streets built to look like old school Chengdu. There’s lots of food vendors selling various skewers and random street foods. I tried a pork skewer, tofu skewer and a mixed grain cup thing. The food was ok. The highlight for me was that I was part of a historical moment in world history. I was part of the world’s greatest photo bomb. As my wife took a picture of me holding my two skewers, some random lady decided to be a part of my picture.
World’s greatest photo bomb.
Random food stand
Tofu & pork skewers
Mixed grain bowl
Entrance to Jinli pedestrian street
For dinner I went to a small noodle joint a couple of blocks from my hotel. I tried Za jiang mian which are noodles with ground pork and a mixture of ground chilies, soy sauce and vinegar. The dish was simple and tasty and had a good amount of heat from the ground chilies. This comes with a small bowl of pickled vegetables. I also tried Guai wei mian which are noodles with chicken gizzards and a broth flavored with star anise and Sichuan peppercorns. The Sichuan peppercorns have a slight numbing effect on your mouth, but not over the top. Each bowl costs around $1.50 US.
Inside of noodle shop
Za jiang mian
Guai wei mian