If our food lover’s guide to Sichuan cuisine has sparked your wanderlust, then take a culinary trip to the capital of Chengdu. This food-mad metropolis was named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, so you can expect mind-blowing bites at every turn. Discover the must-try dishes of the Sichuan province along with the top places to eat them in this Sichuan dining guide.
No trip to Chengdu is complete without sampling the regional specialty of Sichuan hot pot. Those in the know head to Lao Ma Tou Hotpot (Yulin Zhong Lu #27) for a vat of their bubbling broth. There’s a choice of spicy or herbal (mild) brew, and all manner of meats, vegetables and starches for you to dip in and cook in the soup.
Make it yourself: Beef simmered in hot chilli soup
Another signature dish of Sichuan province is ma po tofu. Literally meaning ‘pockmarked grandmother’s tofu’, this comforting dish features cubes of tofu simmered with chilli bean paste and minced pork or beef. You’ll find one of Chengdu’s best examples at Chen Mapo Doufu (197 Xi Yu Long Jie, LuoMaShi).
Make it yourself: Ma po beancurd
It may surprise you to learn that fish-flavoured eggplant is a fish-free zone, but it certainly isn’t lacking in flavour. Slender fingers of eggplant are fried until they are golden on the outside and juicy within, then slatered in a salty, sweet, gently spiced sauce of chilli bean paste, black vinegar, garlic and ginger. Try it at Tian Tian Restaurant (6 Yulin Dong Jie No. 18), along with other Sichuan specialties.
Make it yourself: Fish-flavoured eggplant
Cold, hand-pulled noodles topped with a lip-tingling mix of ground Sichuan peppercorns, hot chilli oil, vinegar sesame paste and sugar – you had us at hello. Devour this simple snack of sweet water noodles (tian shui mian) at Zhang Liang Fen, a cheap and cheerful eatery opposite the Wenshu Temple on Wenshufang.
Another must-try noodle dish in Chengdu is dan dan noodles. Hightail it to Dan Dan Tian Shui Mian (1 Jiangjun St, Qingyang) for a bowl of chewy wheat noodles topped with chilli oil, Sichuan pepper, spring onions and pork mince, plus authentic Sichuan snacks including skewers of meat and vegetables sitting in a fragrant pot of chilli oil.
Make it yourself: Dan dan noodles
Take a stroll down Jin Li Street and be amazed by the array of stalls selling everything from spice-coated potato wedges to pork dumplings slick with chilli oil. Come with an empty stomach and indulge in a moveable feast as you move from one hawker to the next.
Make it yourself: Sichuan red oil wontons
If you only splurge on one meal in Chengdu, make it the mind-bending 30-course degustation at Yu’s Family Kitchen (Shuanglin South Branch Rd, ShuangLin Lu). The inventive menu of modern Sichuan cuisine changes daily, but the signature dish is an edible calligraphy brush made of pastry and pork floss with a tomato-based ‘ink’.
For a Sichuan feast closer to home, discover 10 must-try Sichuan dishes around Australia.
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