Sunday, July 29, 2012

Knife Shaved Noodles

Knife shaved noodles (刀削面) are made by slicing the noodles off of a chunk of dough into boiling water.  They come out thick and chewy with rough edges that pick up seasonings very well. This little noodle shop a few minutes' walk from Chunxi Road caught my eye because it offers one liang servings. Most places that do noodles handmade to order, such as bedspread noodles and knife shaved noodles, will prepare at minimum a two liang serving.

One liang of noodles with sauce:


Because of the day's heat, most of the other customers were digging into sweet liang gao, and then ordering noodles afterwards. The proprietor asked several questions - What flavour noodle toppings did I want? Did I want hot sauce? Really? Did I want noodles in broth, or (my choice) dry?

The noodles hit the spot, and the bowl of veg I ordered on the side was fresh and plentiful. I was happy to find a good, basic noodle shop this close to downtown.

Name of shop: 刀削面
Address in Chinese: 三圣街 58-11 号

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Xiao Tan Dou Hua

The plan was to visit a cold noodle shop on Hua Pai Fang street, but the shop was no more. So I ended up at the Xi Da Jie branch of Xiao Tan Dou Hua for the first time in over a year. I ordered up a beef dou hua, which was fantastic, better even than I remembered:


Tian shui mian, a little sloppy with the seasonings:



Stirred up:



These noodles were a little stiff and the seasoning is better at Zhang's, but Xiao Tan Dou Hua is still a classic.

Cups of Coffee

We've had a couple of new coffee shops open in town, over on the east second ring in a gigantic new shopping centre called Wan Xiang Cheng. (For readers familiar with the great West Edmonton Mall, Wan Xiang Cheng is about the size of two phases.)

Pacific Coffee hails from Hong Kong. They open unusually early, at 8 am, so I went in and asked for a chocolate croissant and a cappuccino, no foam please (no foam=不要奶泡). Should be a decent way to start the day, but there was little coffee flavour in the drink and the croissant was made with an unusual flavoured butter alternative.


Costa Coffee, right next door, is an import from England. I wanted to try the same order of cappuccino with no foam, but the server said cappuccinos were 30% foam and it wasn't worth it, so I just asked for an espresso. It was barely a tablespoon and I couldn't catch any coffee aroma without practically putting my nose in the cup.

The very cute sweets, 11 yuan each, according to the server are made in Shanghai and flown in, but I would have been happier with a sugar cookie. The filling was strange textured and the macaron on top was crumbly rather than crisp.


Both Pacific and Costa are carefully priced to compete with the green siren, but based on their coffee there is not much reason to make a switch, unfortunately.

Judging from all the bakeries opening up lately, mostly proliferating chains, Chengdu is developing a wicked collective sweet tooth. It's tough to pick out standouts, but one very popular bakery is called 85 degrees. I was reading the online reviews and found that people were loving the 'sea salt green tea' (海岩奶绿). They also have sea salt coffee (海岩咖啡). I tried both drinks, which are the usual sweet green tea and coffee mix, but with a layer of very salty creamy substance floating on top. It's the first time I've come across this flavour profile in a drink. The coffee is ten yuan, the tea is eight.



Storefront:

Sweet Stuff: Aizi Xian Bing


Getting treatment at the Chinese Traditional Medicine hospital is a popular and usually inexpensive alternative to western medicine, but a couple of long waits are involved – first when when you take your number and wait to see the doctor, and second,while you are waiting for your prescription to be filled. We noticed quite a few people taking advantage of the lull to pick up a package of 'aizi xian bing' - the name means something like short stuffed buns - from this little storefront on the west first ring. I don't know any other place that sells them, but they are supposedly a Wuhan import. 


There is usually a lineup at the window. Flavours are red and green bean, coconut, and sesame. They are fantastic when fresh and warm, and my favourites are green bean and coconut. I tried to buy sesame filling once and was told they were not good, not sweet enough.

 

Name in Chinese: 矮子馅饼

Address: 一环路西二段36号附2号

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pork Intestine Rice Noodles - Bai Jia Fei Chang Fen

Pork intestine (fei chang) is the starting point of some of the most loved local dishes in Sichuan. It is stewed, stir fried, stirred into hot pot, adds richness to dishes like bean soup, and gets the dry pot treatment, among others. I once watched a couple of guys buying a huge length of it in the supermarket with the obvious anticipation that one of my compatriots might show picking out a top grade steak. I get why it is so popular - there is a chewy outside and a tender inside to the organ that gives it both absorbency and 'kou gan' (mouthfeel), but I only order it at reputable places since it has to be cleaned and prepared carefully or the barnyard notes get a little too much for my taste.

A popular way to eat fei chang is in soup with rice noodles - fei chang fen. Many of the shops selling fei chang fen in Chengdu advertise Bai Jia style. We went to Bai Jia Village in Shuangliu to try the original. Besides noodles, we sampled a few of their other dishes prepared with pork intestine.

By the door, as is typical with fei chang fen shops, was a guo kui station. Guo kui is the traditional accompaniment to fei chang fen. My host said that during the holiday, there was a half hour lineup for this guo kui.


The guo kui was nicely browned but not too oily, and tender and flaky. There was not a lot of meat filling but we didn't miss it. It did complement the bowl of rice noodles well. We ordered the rice noodles without hot sauce, but many people like to get them spicy.


The first dish to land on the table was cold mixed fei chang (凉拌肥肠). Spicy, salty, delicious.


We then dipped into a bowl of 'stewed knotted intestine soup' (冒结子汤). My table companions were impressed with its fragrance.


Fragrant crispy intestine (香酥 肥肠 ) that had been sliced into rings and deep fried, one of my favourite dishes of the day:


Dry pot style (干涡 肥肠 ), one of the dishes that really impressed me with the kitchen's cooking skill. Besides the fei chang, vegetables, and hot pepper there were other flavourful touches like reconstituted dried mushrooms and ginger. All of the components really worked well together.


Mouthwatering intestine (口水 肥肠 ) lived up to its name. It was spicy but well balanced.


Last but not least, intestine steamed in rice meal (粉蒸 肥肠 ), which melted in the mouth.


Storefront:


Name: Bai Jia Gao Ji Fei Chang Fen, Original Shop
Name and Address in Chinese: 白家高记 肥肠 粉总店, 成都 双流白家镇新街 136 号

Wenshu Temple over the holiday

Wenshu Temple is a hotbed of activity during the Spring Festival and had lots of extra booths set out, as usual.

Yak jerky, and various other dried creatures:

There were piles of crunchy sweets made from grains and nuts:


The lineup at Gong Ting Tao Su was even longer than usual.



Zhang's Liang Fen was standing room only, even on the outside.


It was far easier to grab a chair across the alley at Long Chao Shou, where the servers showed great annoyance that neither I nor the three customers ahead of me had change. I hadn't eaten at Long Chao Shou in years, due to repeatedly being disappointed by their signature product, but it remains a tourist favourite so I decided to drop in.

My san he ni, which was tasty but gummy - too much sticky rice in relation to the other ingredients.


I also got an order of chao shou in mushroom broth. The chao shou had good filling and were nicely cooked, tasting much better than I remember. Though I was impressed with the dumplings, the mushroom soup tasted like it was from a mix.


Fresh blended Soy Milk

I've been noticing more and more of this 'fresh blended soy milk' being sold as a snack. Cooked soybeans are blended whole with hot water and additions. The menu lists the health benefits of each type of soy milk - you can add red, black, and green beans, peanuts, oatmeal, mountain yam, lotus seeds, dates, goji berries, sesame seeds, and corn, in various combinations. Sugar is usually added, but I tell the vendor not to bother.

Big blender and additions:



Closer look at the additions:



Menu with formulas and health benefits:




Location: Yulin Dong Lu 玉林东路

Chicken Soup Shop

It's been a while since I visited this place. It is as good as ever, with its set menu of chicken soup and side dishes. I sat upstairs this time. I did notice that quite a few of the other diners were eating spicy cold seasoned chicken (凉拌鸡) rather than chicken soup.



The side dishes are now chargeable, so it is not as inexpensive to eat here as it once was.

Chicken soup, cabbage and tofu, pumpkin rice:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Back to Shang Palace for Dim Sum

The dim sum scene in Chengdu has changed tons since my last visit to Shang Palace in the Shangri-La hotel, and I had been meaning to get back for a while. When I heard that the Hong Kong Shang Palace had gotten another Michelin star I decided to move Shang Palace up my list.

The menu had changed since we last visited. We tried the steamed beef tripe, which was tasty, but I found it chewy and a little tough to eat. I think it's for tripe lovers only.


These shrimp dumplings had unfortunately sat in the steamer a bit too long. The wrappers were too soft and the bamboo shoot inside had lost its crunch.


This radish cake had fantastic flavour, but was already a little cool by the time it landed on our table.


This was a new dish, peach and shrimp spring rolls.  Light and lovely.


We got some dried scallop and gingko congee, It was very good, though I thought it could have had more scallop flavour.


We had a lull of several minutes between getting some of our dishes. There appears to be a distance between the kitchen and the dining room that introduces some lag into the process. I usually have a lot of patience when dishes take their time coming out of the kitchen. However, waiting a long time for the order does raise one's expectations that freshly and carefully prepared plates will eventually arrive. These expectations are not really met at Shang Palace.

Barbecue pork chang fen, tasty but without the supple smoothness that we associate with really good rice roll:



It's decent dim sum for the price (68 yuan each, plus service charge).

Homestyle in Hongpailou - Jia Wei Can Guan

A friend invited me to eat at one of these small neighbourhood restaurants that always seem to do local food the best. I didn't do the ordering, so the first thing that landed on the table was this dish of pig ears (猪耳朵). I thought they were fantastic, but my table companions judged them a bit too sweet:


One useful way of gauging a kitchen is by the freshness of their greens, and the care with which they are prepared and presented. The restaurant did a very nice job with this plate of you cai:



I didn't catch the name of this fish dish, but it was done well - good, tender fish in spicy broth.


'Eat-by-hand' ribs (手撕排骨) is a dish that we are seeing on more and more menus lately. It's delicious, and spicy, and usually mixed with potatoes, dry pot style.


We also wanted to order twice cooked potatoes - 回锅土豆.


Name in Chinese: 佳味餐馆
Address: 红牌楼北街 23 号 附 1 号

I have a picture menu label on this post, but only the main dishes were illustrated. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Clay Pot Dishes for a Chilly Day

Chengdu is feeling quite wintery this week. If you are chilled and looking for something to warm you up, look for 'sha guo' dishes cooked in these heavy pots over a flame.  There are all kinds of choices for what gets cooked inside. Absorbent stuff like intestines, meatballs, spam, tofu, or crispy fried pork pieces are popular. Veg options are available as well and some places will let you combine two veg in one pot, if you ask. The pots hold enough heat to keep your food warm even if you are eating outside.

Here is a sha guo restaurant at the mouth of the snack street on Guang Hua Village, which is rather famous. We thought the food was below average, unfortunately. We didn't like the tough, fatty pieces of meat. 




This is a very good, and spicy, beef sha guo with the rice mixed in (牛肉砂锅饭), at the snack street by a vocational school outside the east third ring. The rice variation is not one we see often.


Locations in Chinese - 光华村小吃街 for the first picture, 四川长江职业学院 后街 for the second one (so out of the way, many taxis from Chengdu won't even go there unless you negotiate a special rate)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Jinjiang District Police Cafeteria

Office and government cafeterias that are open to the public are sought-after places for sustenance. Although they may have limited hours these places are fast, inexpensive, and many feel the food safety standards are higher than on the street. Recently some very cool friends brought me to the Jinjiang district police canteen for lunch.

The inside is strictly cafeteria style, but it was clean.

Most of the police officers were getting food trays to fill up from the dishes on offer that day, but we chose to order off of the menu. Cops have priority:


I asked the server about the beef shreds (牛肉丝) on the menu and she said we could get them done with celery or green peppers (our choice).

 

This was a pretty unique tasting bear paw tofu (熊掌豆腐). It tasted a little sweet, similar to yuxiang. However, it was fried to a nice crispiness under the sauce and we loved it.


By the time twelve thirty rolled around, most of the staff were cleaning up.