Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Xi Da Dou Tang Fan

After a few short days of hot weather Chengdu has been chilly and wet for the past week, and I've been seeking out dou tang fan - bean soup with rice. Dou tang fan is ubiquitous in Chengdu, but most places make bland versions that are not improved by the shreds of meat or vegetable that are added.Grandma Jin's dou tang fan is without peer, but I find myself eating there less and less simply because I find their servings too large.

Last week I walked into a dou tang fan restaurant that looked newly opened. There were only a few people eating, but several staff were looking after the place and the kitchen workers were all wearing white uniforms.

"You need to try this soup, it's great!" said the boss as he carefully set the bowl on the table. It tasted wonderful, and was a perfect size. I felt like Goldilocks, and ate the soup wondering why higher end restaurants in town so rarely serve customers with such obvious care and pride in the product. The bowl of soup (dou tang) is three yuan, rice (fan) is another one yuan. Besides their specialty, they have an assortment of cooked food in pots that usually gets served with rice (shao cai), and a short menu of homestyle food. The serving of baby bok choi (xiao bei cai) I ordered once came very spicy and numbing, and once with zero seasoning. I expect their spicy dishes are pretty bold.

Dou tang, rice on the side, some pao cai that tasted exactly like sauerkraut, and an order of baby bok choi.

Location: Yiguanmiao. The staff claims they have no address. It's up a small alley just in front of a kindergarten, on the northwest side of the Yiguanmiao overpass.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Snacks at Emeishan City

The snack street at Emeishan City was dead. I don't recommend coming here outside evening hours. After walking around for a while I found a noodle shop and got served a very good dish of rice noodles (mifen). There was ground pork, red oil, and lots of zha cai (pickled vegetable) on top. Spicy, sour, great.

On the way to the train we stopped by a dou hua restaurant and got a snack of shi mo dou hua, stone ground soft tofu. It's got a slightly smoky flavour and rougher texture. Little bowls of chopped green onion, red oil, and dou ban (spicy bean paste)were provided as condiment. I think this is the best dou hua I ever had, and will keep an eye out for it back in Chengdu.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fried Dumplings

There are quite a few places in Chengdu to get shengjianbao, a snack food more closely associated with Shanghai. The secret to getting good shengjianbao is to pass by when a fresh pan is just being uncovered. Wait a few minutes until they cool off enough to eat, then enjoy.

This little shop has the best I've had in the city so far, even though the filling is not as good as the shengjianbao in Shanghai. The browned parts of these bao were very crunchy and the dumplings weren't too crowded so they were browned well up their sides. At four dumplings to one yuan, they are a bargain. The shop also sells things like soup dumplings (tang bao), nest buns (wowo tou), and sticky rice dumplings (shao mai). Whatever is fresh should be good; don't bother with anything that has been sitting off the steam too long.

Location: #7-4 West Guojiaqiao St, which runs south of Chuan Da south gate, between river and second ring
郭家桥 西街 7号4

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Under Construction

As most readers have noticed, in an attempt to be accessible locally we are now on a new domain: though pictures in old posts are still blocked. For this reason, I recommend continuing to use the various wall-circumventing techniques while visiting.

Pictures should be visible in posts that appear from today on. Patience is appreciated while I figure all this stuff out.

Indian Food at Ito Yokado

While perusing the offerings at the basement food court at Ito Yokado, I was surprised to see a Cacaja-affiliated Indian food counter. I ordered the masala chicken set meal (马撒辣鸡肉套餐) and a masala chai (马撒辣茶). The set meal was advertised with naan (烤饼), but came with rice. After I expressed disappointment they replaced the rice with roti (飞饼, or 'flying naan' on the English menu). The server explained that they used to have naan, but no longer serve it since Chinese people don't like naan. Which I don't believe for a minute.

There was a long wait for the food, but at least my roti was nice and fresh.

The tray from top right: some dal, a little pool of chicken in sauce spiced identically to the dal, some very good vegetables in a spicy red sauce, the roti, cucumber pao cai, and fruit. The potatos in the vegetable dish were cut in thin slices, Chinese style, instead of the chunks that I was expecting. There was plenty of spice used, but it lacked the life that freshly toasted and ground spices usually give even the most basic Indian food. At 28 yuan, it also wasn't cheap. Next time I will just order a roti and vegetable by itself. They have an English menu, but keep it behind the counter.

The chai was pretty good and a bargain at ten yuan:

A waffle cone of frozen yogurt from the dessert counter hit the spot after all the spicy food:

Location: First basement level of new Ito Yokado on Jianshe Road near the second ring, right across from SM Square