Monday, February 9, 2009

宽窄巷子 - China Lane

Any Chinese city with tourist traffic to speak of, or which desires tourists, has a rebuilt historic area or two and Chengdu is no exception. The latest addition to our collection of mock ups is three walking streets: 宽巷子 - the Wide Alley, 窄巷子 - the Narrow Alley, and 井巷子 - the Well Alley. (China Lane is the translation on signs, but you can tell cab drivers, 'kuanxiangzi!' or 'kuanzhaixiangzi!') There is a mountain equipment shop, some astoundingly expensive restaurants, souvenir shops and a Starbucks. Some of the buildings appear to have a preserved outside and rebuilt inside, but most are brand new - the black brickwork has no patina of age, but feels rough as a freshly chipped tooth.

Today is the last day of the winter holiday, and there were many extra food booths set up:

The vendors were aggressive today, calling out their wares and tending their woks at the same time. Below, three kinds of 臭豆腐 (chou dou fu; stinky tofu). The 特臭臭豆腐 (special stink stinky tofu?) looked exactly like coal:

In front, 'Milan' shrimp cakes. In back, Taiwanese oyster omelet on a grill - first raw oysters, then crepe batter, then a broken egg, served folded up and covered with hot sauce:

由茶 - 'oil tea' is a literal but not very accurate translation (anyone else want to give it a shot?) - kind of a thick gravy with crunchy toppings. I don't think it is made with meat, but with bean or nut flour.

Spiral cut deep fried potatoes (most people were getting these covered in hot pepper):

There is enough to like about the area, I must admit. I drop by often enough that the the M*o memorabilia shop owner recognized me the last time I went in. I do love the way the wide windows and doors in this style of traditional Chinese buildings are placed to frame views so perfectly and make you feel like you are outside and inside at the same time. There is a photography shop on one of the streets so you can often watch fashion and wedding photographers at work using the buildings as backdrop. There are enough local people relaxing in the tea shops or snack areas that it still feels like China. 井巷子 (the Well Alley) is my favourite of the three streets because the south wall is covered with information about Chengdu's history. There are maps, photos, and some odd but interesting half photo/half sculpture displays.

Non-holiday shot of Zhaixiangzi:

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