Sunday, November 22, 2009

Yong He Soy Milk

Yong He Soy Milk is a chain with several branches in Chengdu that serve up basic and quality Chinese food in a comfortable, informal atmosphere. I don't often bring tourists here, but it's one of the first places I introduce to new residents. Since soy milk is their specialty, they open early and are very busy for breakfast and lunch. You can see many locals dipping youtiao (long, not-sweet doughnuts) into steaming bowls of soy milk at breakfast, or eating pot stickers and dumplings or fried eggs. Table sharing is very common at the busier branches.

At lunch, about a third of the tables seem to have an order of stewed ribs and rice (大排饭). The meat is tender with just the right amount of richness, and you get half a stewed egg and greens with the order. They often run out.

The vegetable soup (素菜汤) is always a great indicator of kitchen quality. Note the fresh and clean greens, and how they use real soup broth instead of water.

An order of green pepper and beef fried rice (青椒牛肉炒饭). Not greasy, and with an excellent stuff/rice ratio.

This is the branch on Xi Da street, (2nd floor of Golden Hawaii building) showing their red and white logo and writing in traditional Chinese characters:

They charge not quite double what you would pay for the same items in a local place but the cleanness and quality of the food, served up by well-trained staff, make the prices very worth it. However, they are not always consistent between branches and I suspect a few are copycat restaurants. The above location on Xi Da Street is a solid choice. The one on Fang Cao Street is one of my favourites (they used to burn their soy milk a lot but have been better lately). The Kehua North Road branch is good and has the most gorgeous, silky soy milk ever. The branches on the east and south first ring and the branches in the Auchan supermarkets can be skipped. However, if I find myself hungry in an unfamiliar area of the city, I am pretty happy to catch a glimpse of that red sign.

Name: 永和豆浆

Addresses for a few of their locations:

Yanshikou, downtown: 锦江区东御街19号人民商场B1楼

Kehua North Rd: 武侯区棕北小区科华北路46号

Fang Cao Street: 武侯区芳草西二巷22号

Xi Da Street: 青羊区西大街84号金色夏威夷2楼

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Guanghua Village Snack Street

The busiest and most delicious snack streets are often located near schools and universities. The Guanghua Village snack street is just adjacent to the Sichuan Administrative College, and opposite the second south gate of the Southwest University of Finance and Economics. It extends a longs ways back from the street and is lined with small restaurants, sweet shops, and food carts.

Everyone on the street seemed to be munching on a ball or two of tang you guo zi (糖油果子)along with whatever else they were eating. I've never been a fan of this sweet, but these were served piping hot and were miraculously crispy outside and soft inside.

You can see the attention to detail just in how the raw dough is laid out. There are actually two manning this cart, one guy cooking and the other tossing cooked balls in sesame and taking orders. The guy with the wok was paying close attention to the temperature and condition of the sweetened oil, which was uncommonly clean. They were only 1.5 yuan per stick.

One of the specialties of Sichuan is 'iron plate' barbecue. You choose your items on skewers just like for regular barbecue, but then they are cooked on a flat metal grill. They are often partly deep fried first. Waertie barbecue, the shop with the greasy green sign, uses the deep fry method and then arranges your selection nicely on one of the trays. I picked up pea shoots, herbs and pork wrapped in tofu skin, shiitake and oyster mushrooms, zucchini, konnyaku, and some thin and very sweet sausage.

This is the after-school crowd, at about 5:30 in the evening. Later on the stinky tofu vendors and barbecue carts come out.

Location: Guanghua Village street, just beside main gate of Sichuan Administrative College

Back to the Tea Market

Early this week I went back to the Wukuaishi tea market, in search of something to drink in cooler weather. I was specifically on the lookout for pu-erh tea and Yunnan red. On this trip I realized I'd only seen a tiny corner of the tea market before. It does span several streets and buildings.

One of the many tea culture sculptures in the area:

Workers picking through Tie Guan Yin in front a shop specializing in this kind of tea. We tasted some but thought the prices quoted were a bit high for the quality.

Tea Joy, which I referred to in a previous post, seemed way more expensive than before. If you come here, bargain hard.

Some bags of small pressed Pu-erh; Tibetan brick tea on lower left:

Besides tea there are all manner of flowers, herbs, and fruit for steeping. My friends bought rosebuds, lavender, and sliced licorice root.

Location: Wukuaishi Tea Market, close to Wukuaishi bus station.

Ladies and Gentlemen....

May I present,

Dry-Fried Green Beans!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Mountain Treasure

Chengdu is peppered with mountain treasure (山珍) restaurants, which specialize in mushrooms, fungus, and medicinal foods. I wanted to visit one before the mushroom season was over and found my way to the mushroom restaurant in Beilian Tianfu with a couple of friends on the weekend.

The server who took our order didn't give much guidance about the menu, but talked me into ordering a box of corn juice to share, which tasted just like the liquid in a can of corn. Then a new, very pleasant and attentive server took over and cared for us very well, explaining how to cook and eat the mushrooms.

The rather intimidating main attraction - their most basic mix of mushrooms. The only ones I recognized were the chicken leg mushrooms, bamboo fungus, the pig stomach mushrooms, and the beef liver mushrooms. I asked our server to introduce the others but most of the explanations were beyond my Chinese.

Individual pots of soup (you can also order a large bowl). Rich and complex without being the least bit greasy. I tried to ask what was in the soup, but beyond 'secret recipe' not much of the explanation registered. Once the soup was boiling, the mushrooms were added and cooked for several minutes.

A rich dish of liang fen (cubes of yellow bean starch) with pork belly, recommended by the server. It wasn't bad, but everything else was so good we left most of it.

Baby bok choi in a chicken sauce with goji berries.

This type of hot pot is much lighter than traditional kinds, with no oily broth or dipping sauce, but felt ten times as nourishing. The varied textures and flavours of the mushrooms were so interesting I could have kept eating them all night. The really remarkable thing was how good the food made us feel. We didn't finish eating until late, but I felt energized enough to walk all the way home.

Name: 川野山珍酒楼
Address: 武侯区科华中路9号百联天府购物中心

Fourth floor of Beilian Tianfu Shopping Mall, just south of the second ring on Kehua Middle Road.