What Foods Not to Miss?
With so much to choose from, it’s difficult to pick the best when you visit Chengdu. Read on for a breakdown of the most unique and delicious snacks that the Hub of Western China has to offer.
Sichuan’s widely-varied geography has resulted in a wide array of cuisines, and noodles are no exception to that rule. Called “mian” (me-an) in Chinese, Chengdu is known for many different types of noodles.
Almost every noodle dish in China is highly customizable- the diner can order it with or without: spicy peppers/pepper flakes, bean sprouts, pickled vegetables, chopped green onions, chopped garlic, salt, sugar, pepper, and more. Both the least and most adventurous eaters can find something they like in Chengdu noodles.
Dan Dan Mian (Dan Dan Noodles)
Looking for the qintessential Sichuan dish? Look no further. Dan Dan noodles are a staple- and with good reason. These flour noodles are served with vegetables and fried pork and pork gravy, making for a balanced, flavorsome meal. They have a savory, smokey, and spicy flavor from liberal application of chili oil. They are frequently served at banquets in Chengdu as well as being widely-available from street vendors.
You can find Dan Dan Mian all over Chengdu. It’s served in restaurants, it served by street vendors, and it’s made by the locals at home too.
Liang Mian (Cold Noodles)
Chilis, black pepper, sugar, and vinegar may not sound so great on cold noodles, but it makes for a refreshing, cool snack- almost like a salad. Topped with bean sprouts, fresh coriander leaves, and chopped green onions, liang mian is a great way to beat the summer heat.
Suan La Fen (Hot and Sour Sweet Potato Noodles)
Pickled vegetables (usually asian raddish or cabbage), fresh coriander, and peanuts add flavor to Suan La Fen. These translucent noodles are made from sweet potato, rather than the more common rice or flour. They are served in steaming broth with a flavor combo that balances salty, spicy, and savory, and will keep you warm on cold days.
Feichang Fen (Pig Intestine Noodles)
These elastic noodles are made from sweet potato flour. However, this is no dish for the squeamish, the main ingredient in this dish is pig intestine, which provides the flavoring for the broth that the noodles are served in. Like many of the noodle dishes throughout China, this can be made to order, with or without: bean sprouts, chopped onions, spicy peppers, and of course an extra helping of innards. Adventurous epicureans can also try heart, lung, and liver variants of this dish.
Long Chao Shou (Chengdu Wontons)
Long Chao Shuo are a local Chengdunese name for wontons. These wontons are made by stuffing thin, tender flour paper skins stuffed with a meat stuffing- usually made from pork or beef. The wontons are served in a soup with a sauce made from pork, beef, duck, and chicken, which is simmered until creamy. This simple dish contains only a few ingredients and makes for a refreshing, light snack between meals.
Zhong Jiaozi (Zhong Dumplings)
Zhong dumplings are named after their inventor, Zhong Shaobai, whose dumplings became the most famous in Chengdu toward the end of the Qing dynasty. Dumplings are eaten all over China, but these are unique because their ingredients contain no vegetables, only pork, giving them an especially savory taste.
There are 2 types of Zhong dumplings: soup dumplings, and red oil dumplings.
The soup dumplings are milder, served in broth. They have a lighter, more refreshing flavor, and are easy on the palate and digestive system.
The red oil dumplings focus on balancing a variety of strong flavors- salty, spicy, and sweet. The dumplings naturally savory/salty flavor is complemented by the sauce they are served with. They are served in a sauce composed of chili oil, garlic, soy sauce and sugar, leading to a balanced melange of powerful flavors.
Fu Qi Fei Pian (Husband and Wife Lung Pieces)
Fu Qi Fei Pian may have an off-putting name[in English], but its actually made from other sliced beef organs served in a chili oil sauce with various garnishes. This dish is served cold or at room temperature, with the signature Sichuan spicy/numbing flavor.
Usually, tongue, heart, and stomach make up the organ ingredients, rather than lung.
The unusal name of this dish comes from a couple who sold it in the 1930s. They experimented with different ingredients so their dishes’ flavors stood out. After a wealthy merchant liked their food so much he bought the husband and wife a golden plaque that read “Fuqi Feipian,” and the name has stuck ever since.
Lai Tang-yuan (Glutinous Rice Balls)
Legend has it that in 1894, a young man named Lai Yuanxin came to Chengdu to apprentice as a cook. He soon fell out with his boss and wound up on the street. With borrowed money he got some simple cooking equipment and started vending rice dumplings on the street.
Pulling himself up by the bootstraps, his success was enough that he could open a restaurant in central Chengdu some years later.
Now Lai’s balls are a traditional snack all over China, and are frequently eaten to celebrate new year. They make for great snacks to graze on during the holidays between heavy meals, with a sweet and savory flavor that comes from sugar and sesame seeds.
Where to Find These Yummy Treats?
Zhang Liangfen (洞子口张老二凉粉)
For noodles of all kinds, particularly liang mian (cold noodles), head to Zhang Liang Fen.
Location: Zhang Liang Fen, 39 Wenshuyuan Street 四川省成都市青羊区草市街文殊院街39号
Head to Wenshu Monastery Metro Station (文殊院). Head east on Wenwu Road and then take your first left (north). Keep going for about 2 blocks, and you will find yourself surrounded by restaurants, Zhang Liangfen will be on your left, across from the park.
Lai Tang Yuan (Mr. Lai’s Rice Balls) and Fuqi Feipian Snack Center
This 100+ year old restaurant is a Chengdu cornerstone. It’s been here since Mr. Lai started selling his rice balls in 1894.
You can also find the Fuqi Feipian (Husband and Wife Lung Pieces) and plenty of other Chengdunese local dishes.
Location: 27 Zongfu Road, Jinjiang District 锦江区总府路27号
Located right on Zhongfu Road, next to the Crowne Plaza at Chengdu City Center, you can take buses # 4, 8, or 98 there.
You can also take the metro to Tianfu Square Station (lines 1 and 2). Walk east on Renmin East road until it becomes Zongfu Road with a slight right. The Lai Tang Yuan is right after the slight turn.
Zongfu Road and the City Center
Walking along Zongfu road and exploring its side-alleys will unearth a wealth of good places to eat. The area is pretty easy to find on a map, it’s the area east and southeast of Wenshu Yuan (文殊院) andTianfu Square Metro Station (天府广场).