Friday, August 28, 2009

Free Range Egg Custard with Meat Sauce

Steamed free range egg with meat sauce topping at Grandma Jin's. No wonder I see so many people ordering it. The steamed egg has a smooth and delicate texture, and the spicy meat sauce is perfect on top.

Bamboo Basket Mao Cai World

Mao cai - even saying it feels satisfying. This simple but spicy street food and lunch option consists of vegetables and meat placed in a small basket and then hung inside a very spicy and numbing soup to cook. You get served whatever you ordered along with some of the soup. Mao cai is usually eaten with rice on the side.

At this mao cai place near the south gate of Sichuan university, I asked for a vegetarian mao cai (全蔬冒菜). (Strict vegetarians may object to eating mao cai since all the orders are cooked in the same soup.) The kitchen workers then called me to pick out my vegetables, which was a nice touch. I chose potato, lettuce heart, two kinds of tofu, bok choy, wood ear mushroom, and konnyaku. Lotus root and cubes of blood are among the most popular selections, and bean sprouts are default.


Location: 竹篓香冒菜馆 武侯区川大南门外竹林村三单元门口 (This is more of a description.) From south gate of Sichuan university, turn left. It's a block or so down. You can't miss all the Coca-Cola signage.

Ruxuan Seafood Congee

This is the restaurant with water running over the windows on Kehua North Road. The high-walled booths and lighting make it a date and business dinner destination. Ruxuan appears to be a Guangzhou based chain, and serves Cantonese congee and other Guangdong style fare in rather small portions. Besides the tureen of congee, we got some shrimp dumplings:

Whole shrimp, with nice bite but quite a bit of filler, in wrappers that were sticking to their tart molds. Every table seemed to have an order of soup dumplings (灌汤包子) so we asked for those as well, which came in the same tart molds. The dumplings had thick wrappers and were light on the soup, but tasted fine.

This apple pastry (苹果大饼) was loved by everyone:

Their congee was saltier and not as creamy as other Cantonese congee I've eaten in Chengdu, but tasted great. We foreigners did find the shell-on shrimp that came in the congee a little hard to eat neatly. The crab congee would have been even more challenging, I think.

Address: 如轩海鲜粥 武侯区科华北路30号

Not far south of the first ring, on Kehua North Road

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vegetarian Lifestyle

A week ago I had the chance to meet up with several other foreigners at one of the city's most popular vegetarian restaurants. Vegetarian Lifestyle (枣子树素餐馆) is an upscale chain vegetarian restaurant with a menu covering many parts of China. Based on online reviews, the menu in Chengdu seems to be the same as offered in other cities. Besides the chance to meet up with some lovely people, it was pretty interesting to compare the vegetarian dishes with those at other places. Many dishes were ordered, but I only got to snap a few pictures.

Cashew chicken, very good:

A vegetarian version of Peking duck. The wraps are in the background:

Tofu skin roll appetizer, a bit sloppy:

Their baked double mushrooms with broccoli and cheese looks and tastes very un-Chinese, more like something you would make in the oven at home. The Wuxi ribs with rice cake were fine. I was impressed with some dishes and unimpressed with others. The sauces in particular were too sweet and stiff, and seemed more like bulk bottled sauces than something coming out of a serious kitchen. Lots to like about this restaurant, but is more of a neighbourhood than a destination place.

Name in Chinese: 枣子树素餐馆

Address: 青羊区青龙街27号铂金城购物广场4楼
Just off of Renmin Zhong Lu, not far from Wenshu Temple.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Huaxing Tomato Egg Noodle

One of my first food guides in the city took me to Huaxing Zheng Street, and pointed out this tomato egg noodle place. It's the most famous in the city, but at the time I thought it looked too ratty to eat there. It was a year or so before I got over that and tried what are my favourite tomato egg noodles in the city.

There are tons of Huaxing Tomato Egg Noodle joints in town, but I don't know if they are really affiliated with this one or are simply knockoff restaurants. Or tribute restaurants, depending on how you look at things.

What I like about this place is that you can order your noodles spicy, which are great. My one quibble with this place is that they make a big stack of eggs ahead of time for busy periods so you are not always getting a fresh, hot, crisp fried egg. Today, arriving in the middle of the afternoon, I managed to get a good one. The spicy sauce really complements the tomato base and egg, though about half the customers order their noodles not spicy.

Menu board: 2 liang of noodles and one egg, 3 liang of noodles one egg, two liang of noodles two eggs, etc. I always get one liang of noodles and one egg.

Address: No 4-6 Huaxing Zheng Jie close to Wangfujing, which is just north of Chunxi Rd.
Address: 锦江区 华兴正街4-6号(近王府井)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Xi Ke Tea House - 稀客老茶馆

Had an hour or so to kill before meeting up with friends for dinner, and noticed a little teahouse on Middle Xiaojiahe street. It looked new but seemed overgrown with greenery at the same time and I thought the roof deck would have a nice mix of shade and breeze. The deck ended up being occupied but the ground floor was still very pleasant, with stone walls and flooring.

The server opened a fan to present the tea menu. The teas here range from twenty to around a hundred rmb per order, but there are quite a few good selections for Y20. I asked the server to explain the choices and we decided on an Osmanthus Flower Oolong (桂花乌龙).

A standard tea snack offering is one tiny plate of nuts or soybeans. Here they brought out a generous and beautiful assortment of popcorn, crunchy green beans, and fresh fruit.

The next surprise was how the tea was served - one of the servers arrived with a tea set and proceeded to brew the tea gong fu style. She gracefully warmed the utensils, rinsed, steeped, strained, and poured. The tea was gorgeous and floral, especially the first steeping. I only had time to enjoy three steepings before leaving, but am looking forward to returning.


Name: 稀客老茶馆 Address: 肖家河中街 39 号

Yibin Combustion Noodles

Around Xiaojiahe, it is impossible to go hungry. This is an afternoon snack of one liang vegetarian combustion noodles (素然面). They came premixed except for the peanuts, onions, and ya cai. Hit the spot, though I would have been happier with noodle water than with the fishy tasting seaweed soup. Y3 for a one liang serving.


Address 肖家河中街 10 号

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Chicken Soup Shop

Summer colds are the worst, especially when you end up being housebound during the nicest weather the city's had all year. The only food that appeals is basic comfort food, like chicken soup. I love to eat Crossing the Bridge Noodles when I have a cold. The newly discovered Qionglai Noodles in Soup joint is serving me well too.

On Xiaonan Street is a fairly new operation called 鸡汤铺子 - the Chicken Soup Shop. It's done up on the inside and outside in typical Chinese nouveau rustic - tiles, wood tables and benches, wood window lattices - to pleasant effect. The menu is presented in attractive vertical calligraphy, and the main attraction is the chicken soup set meals. You select a type of chicken soup made with things like mushrooms, mountain yam or ginkgoes, and then add a couple of side dishes. I accepted the server's suggestions and ended up with a bowl of chicken soup with ginkgoes, some plain boiled cabbage and tofu, a bowl of rice and corn, some preserved beans, and a little bowl of spicy vinegar and oil (not shown) to use as a dip for the cabbage and tofu.

The soup was pure chicken, not even so much as salted, though there are cellars on the tables. (Salt improves it immensely.) The promotional material clearly shows a rooster comb and a foot nestled in the bowl of soup. Mine was lacking these treats, but they may turn up. This food is definitely more for health than pleasure, but sometimes that is exactly what you want.

Storefront. Look for two birdcages and a blue banner:

Address: 青羊区小南街97号 Southwest of Renmin Park

Beijing Traditional Zhajiang Mian

My attachment to zhajiang mian (炸酱面), or 'fried sauce' noodles, is deep. They are a traditional Chinese food but across the border in Korea people love 'jajangmyun' just as much, and during the years when I lived with Korean roommates and made two trips to said country, these noodles featured in some of life's most memorable meals. They, are, however, quite rare in Sichuan. So I was pretty excited when I saw the sign: Beijing Traditional Zhajiang Mian, by a large apartment complex on the north side of Jiuyan Qiao.

The house specialty comes nicely presented - a large bowl of noodles with several smaller bowls of stir-ins and the oily sauce on the side. I liked that we could control how much oil we added, and the server helped us mix up the noodles. The flavour was exactly right. Noodles, about to have the dark brown sauce added and mixed up:

(Peeking from the back is an order of stir fried eggplant with bits of ground pork and fresh soybeans - 小炒茄子. Great.)

Although the zhajiang mian stir-ins are all vegetable, the noodles have a little bit of meat. Non meat eaters can request without, or order the dalu mian (打卤面), another type of mixed noodle dish which is meatless. There are quite a few other veg friendly options on the menu.

There is far more to the menu than noodles. We also got an order of Beijing sauce shredded pork, 京酱肉丝, which came with untraditional squares of tofu skin to use as wraps for the meat and sauce.

I really, really, like this restaurant. The serving staff in their blue uniforms (all male the night we visited) appear to be well chosen and well trained, and work very efficiently but still show patience with foreigners who are trying to figure out the menu. The prices are much more reasonable than they need to be, and everything we ate was prepared with care. We are looking forward to eating there again and trying the sweets on the menu. Storefront:

Name: 老北京 炸酱面 Address: 锦江区宏济新路297号 Walk a couple blocks east of the north Jiuyan Qiao bus stop.