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.
In most Sichuan restaurants in Chengdu, you’ll find the full range of Sichuan classics on offer. The most famous Sichuanese dishes that you really must try while in Chengdu are:
- Mapo Tofu 麻婆豆腐 (‘pockmarked granny’ tofu)
Pockmarked grandma’s tofu: soft bean curd served with a spicy topping of minced beef in a bean-based sauce
- Spicy Diced Chicken 宫保鸡丁 (Kung Pao Chicken)
Kung Pao Chicken is its Cantonese name, and read as Gongbao Jiding (宫保鸡丁 /gong-baow jee-ding/ ‘Palace-Protected Chicken Cubes’) in Mandarin. The dish is prepared by frying diced chicken and dry red pepper with golden peanuts. Spicy diced chicken is more popular among Westerners than its counterpart mapo tofu. This is because it is usually less spicy, or not at all, when served abroad and outside Sichuan province. Learn how to cook Kung Pao Chicken.
- Fuqi Fei Pian 夫妻肺片 (‘Husband and Wife Lung Slices’)
Fuqi Fei Pian, the brainchild of Guo Zhaohua, is made of thinly sliced beef (or bovine lung or tongue) seasoned with chili oil.
- Sichuan Hot Pot 麻辣火鍋
Sichuan hotpot, like most of the cuisine in this humid and populous province, is numbingly spicy. The broth is flavored with chili peppers and other strong-tasting herbs and spices. The main ingredients include hot pepper, Chinese crystal sugar, and wine. Slices of kidney, chicken breast, beef tripe, goose intestines, spring onion, soy bean sprouts, mushrooms, duck, and sea cucumber are the usual meats used in the dish. Learn more about Hot Pot.
- Dandan Mian 擔擔麵 (Dandan Noodles)
Dandan noodles is yet another quintessential Sichuan dish that has received international attention and hence may come in different versions. Unlike the usually watered down ones outside Sichuan, dandan noodles in Sichuan province embody a combustion of flavors — savoury, nutty, spicy, and smoky. The noodles are drenched in chili oil with vegetables, Sichuan pepper, and minced pork served on top.
- Ganbian Sijidou 干煸四季豆 (Dry Stir Fried Green Beans)
There has been a misconception about this dish being oily and heavy. However, when done right in Sichuan province, the stir-fried green beans are supposed to be light and crunchy. Also known as snap beans or string beans, the beans are prepared with the cooking technique “dry-frying” where lesser oil is needed and a longer frying time required. This dehydrates the beans, creating a crispy outer layer.