I wrote this post for the YYSS CAST Blog and I thought it’d make a nice “Part 1” to my China series. After all, what better way to start off a new page, after two weeks of absence, with a mouth-watering entry? 😉 Of course, the post on the 9th World Biomaterials Congress will be coming, so stay tuned!
I had a chance to go to Chengdu, China for a conference in June, and in my free time, my colleagues and I explored the city of Chengdu to hunt for its delicacies. Chengdu is located in Sichuan province in south-west China, and is known for its taste of “numbing spiciness”. As if spiciness itself wasn’t enough, the numbing sensation that the food leaves on your tongue adds an extra dimension to the enjoyment. I’ve heard so much about the authentic Sichuanese street food and was dying to try some out and challenge my tolerance to spiciness. Let’s get started, shall we? (Click to view full-sized version of pictures.)
Ironically the first thing I show you is not street food, but another must-do of Chengdu – 麻辣火鍋, or spicy hot pot. This is just the beginning, before any real food was dipped into the pot, and it was already fuming with hotness. For those who would rather not be too adventurous, there’s the middle pot with standard, non-spicy soup. Surprisingly the hot pot wasn’t as spicy as I had expected. Maybe my tolerance is indeed started to increase thanks to the spicy-loving people at fellowship feeding me spicy food every weekend…
Here we get to the real thing in 錦里 (Jin Li), a historic district in Chengdu. I’m not sure what this is, as I didn’t try it. I would be tempted to say rabbit head, since it was on the menu, but these look more like duck heads than rabbit heads, whichever way you look at it.
Ah, delicious 菠蘿糯米飯, or pineapple sticky rice. Very sweet and filling and certainly quite aesthetically pleasing as well. Bright colours induce the desire to eat…*drool*
Spicy tofu! As we watched the chef prepare the tofu, we were amazed to see that he smeared the tofu squares with the spicy powder non-stop. You can’t even tell that the tofu was white to begin with. Then again, what’d we expect, it’s called spicy tofu for a reason, and we were ready for it!
Too tasty for words. My tongue was numb for a good 10 minutes after finishing this and anything I ate during that period of time wouldn’t have tasted like anything, but man, it was quite a fantastic feeling, alright!
Next we have 缽缽雞, which is literally translated as “bobo” chicken. I don’t actually know what “bobo” means or whether it has a meaning at all, but this is a must-try on request by a friend who had been in Chengdu before.
I don’t know if it was just because my tongue was still numb from the tofu, or whether the spiciness was over-exaggerated in the first place, but I really didn’t think that the “bobo” chicken was THAT spicy…not to say that it wasn’t good, though!
Lots of variety. At 1.5 yuan (Chinese currency, where 7.6 yuan = 1 Euro) per portion, how many different ones can you eat?
Next on the list we have spicy beef wrapped in bamboo leafs…or some sort of leafs. I loved the appearance of this set. The green, red, and white complement each other so well and I just couldn’t resist getting one, even if it was just to look at closely.
I ate my portion after my two colleagues had theirs, and thankfully they warmed me about the chilli peppers, which I would be wise the avoid. Yes they add the spicy touch to the beef, but you don’t want to bite into it unless you want to suffer a severe mouth burn. Advice heeded, and so I savoured very much this dish 😉
Finally, we have here a whole assortment of grilled goodies, ranging from squid to beef to gizzards to lamb. I had gizzards and lamb and while the lamb was just average (nothing beats Beijing or Xinjiang styled lamb), the gizzards were amazing. Oh, did I mention that copious amounts of chilli powder and cumin powder were smeared onto the meat? Har har, ❤ spicy food!
So here you have it, a small tour of Chengdu's street food. This is only a very small selection of what Chengdu has to offer, and regrettably I wasn't able to bring all of it back with me, but hey, you can always dream of going there again, no? 😉