Friday, November 26, 2010

Brazilian Barbecue, Rou Jia Mo, Guo Kui

In recent years Chengdu residents' eating habits have changed enormously. One factor is that locals now have an unprecedented chance to try foods from all over the world. I have mixed feelings about the resulting inevitable fusion, both in the high end and low end places.

One evening on the Daye Lu side of Women's street, this chuan chuan shop was doing a roaring side business selling sandwiches filled with barbecued chopped meat. We have a similar sandwich in Chengdu, though the meat doesn't get the mix/chop treatment that blends the ingredients while breaking them down into sandwich stuffing. The local sandwich is called guo kui (锅魁). The sandwich with chopped/mixed filling is native to Shaanxi, and known as rou jia mo (肉夹馍). The vertical spit barbecued meat is known as Brazilian barbecue (巴西烤肉). So this concoction is called 'baxi kaorou jia guokui' - 巴西烤肉夹锅魁.

The pumpkin congee they were serving on the side. Not bad.

The sandwich wasn't bad. The barbecued meat filling was mixed with a salad-y mix of shredded carrots, red peppers, lettuce, and spicy pepper to taste.

If given the choice, I'd eat a regular guo kui though.

Location: Yanshikou Women's street, lower level on Daye Lu side.

Bedspread Noodles

This noodle shop I first wrote about a couple of years ago, and have returned to, is still one of my favourites. Lunch crowd:

I ordered suan cai noodles with an egg. The noodles came quickly:

And then I waited several minutes for the egg to come out. I was hungry enough to be irritable and started grousing to the servers about how long it takes to cook an egg. What came was well worth the wait though, and I am glad they cook sides to order rather than pre-making the stuff. I also found out how great their pao cai (pickles) are.

Name in Chinese:


Dolphin Sweets

Went to check out the new Galeria shopping mall (凯丹广场) today, down near the south Auchan. Several of the stores are not open yet, but the city's first H&M was crawling with customers and both floors of Zara were open for business. The Uniqlo store wasn't open yet. At times it was tough to find my way between levels, but I absolutely love the natural light on the inside:

I was ready for a break when I spotted a branch of Dolphin Sweets (多副甜品) on the top level. There are a few other branches of Dolphin in town; one in the basement of Renhe Spring on the west second ring, and one in Tongzilin. (I tried to go into the Tongzilin store once but it was really smoky.) The interior is comfortable and nicely decorated:

Their specialty is sweet soft tofu, though they do have some other ice cream, fruit, shan cao (mountain herb) and shaved ice concoctions on their well illustrated but all characters menu. The server was very good, and recommended this mixture of coconut milk with various beans, grains, and large and small tapioca mixed in. She said it was good for the skin.

I thought it was served a bit oddly, with only a small spoon, but it was pretty delicious and not too sweet. I plan on trying one of the tofu desserts next time.

Name in Chines and location:
凯丹广场 4 楼

Sweet Stuff at Chicony Square

Chicony Square is a new and very slick multi-floor shopping mall on the south end of Chunxi Rd. The sweet offerings in the basement always attract me the most.

This is a banana and red bean crepe from Berry Crepe. Chocolate sauce on top is free. They have no English menu but one of the staff spoke English when I visited.

When I first moved to Chengdu we had a Beard Papa but they unfortunately closed down. It was pretty exciting to see a new Beard Papa open up, with cream puffs much fresher tasting than we remember.

Location: B2 level, Chicony Square, Chunxi Rd. 群光广场, 春熙路

Huang Cheng Ba Halal Beef

Many people have this mental image of Chinese halal food as being meat on skewers or Xinjiang-style dishes, but it is much more than that. Beef based halal hot pot can even be found in Sichuan. On, the highly useful Yelp-style Chinese restaurant guide, Huang Cheng Ba is the highest-rated halal restaurant in town. I like the food a lot, and often bring visitors here.

Stewed pumpkin with red dates, beef soup, pickled cabbage and soybeans, and dipping sauce:

The double-flavour beef (双味牛排), deep fried beef slices with two seasonings, is one of the specialties. We liked it though thought it was a little dry. After it had sat for a while we were eating it dipped in the soup.

Golden sand corn (金沙玉米), corn kernels coated in a batter that usually includes egg yolk and then deep fried. Artery-clogging and delicious.

The popularity of this place means you are often waiting for a table, and the servers seem focused on herding people in and out as efficiently as possible. Customers order from an all characters check-off menu, which makes the place a bit difficult for those lacking Chinese skills. It's also loud, not the place to bring a soft-spoken eating companion. However, the food is delicious and well priced. They also have a takeout window where you can buy cold sliced beef tendon and fuqi fei pian.

Name in Chinese and address:


Squid and Chicken Hot Pot

I am not sure how the whole squid and chicken thing got started, but it has become a pretty popular combination. This hot pot restaurant to the south of Qin Tai lu specializes in squid and chicken hot pot. Soup, pre-boiling:

These chao shou that we ordered to cook in the soup were fantastic.

We also wanted a spicy dish, so ordered a dry pot frog (干锅青蛙)

Spicy frog dishes in Chengdu are usually amazingly delicious. However, you need to order them in the summer time when the fields are full of the critters. We were a bit past the season and were eating farmed frogs. (Bullfrog, 牛蛙, is also available in the colder months but is not as well loved.)

Name in Chinese and address: 龙二妹鱿鱼鸡, 青羊区锦里西路98号附3号
Along the river south of Qin Tai Rd.

Soup Dumplings

Soup dumplings seem to be known in the English speaking world as xiao long bao. However, ordering xiao long bao (a small basket of bao) in Chengdu will not often get you dumplings with soup inside. They are more often sold as tang bao (汤包, literally soup dumpling) or guantang baozi (灌汤包子, the Xian name). Really good soup dumplings I have not yet found; they are pretty obviously not a local specialty.

These photos are from a soup dumpling shop right outside the Nijiaqiao subway stop, on the west side of Renmin Nan Lu. Place setting (碗筷):

The place appeared to be a side enterprise of a higher end restaurant. Wooden benches and tables:

The dumplings were fresh, so not hard, and not broken. However, I thought the soup should be clearer.

Location: to the right of the Nijiaqiao subway exit on the west side of Renmin South Rd.

Soft Tofu across from Minorities University Bayi campus

A few weeks ago I got pretty lost around Bayi, the area filled with wholesale furniture stores in the southwest. Down a small street was a row of fly restaurants. Since it was lunchtime I decided to try the dou hua (soft tofu) at this one:

Not til I sat down did I realize this was a point and choose type of place, where you could ask for a selection of dishes from whatever they had on display. Proteins:



I stuck with my original choice of dou hua, which came with a bowl of spicy oil and pepper paste seasoned with onions and msg. I had to persuade the proprietor not to give me a huge portion. 

View from the dining room:

Location: Tai Ping Yuan Jie, across the street from the Bayi campus of the Minorities University.