Food is Sichuan is fragrant, spicy and oily. Many in China consider it the country’s best cuisine. The chilli bug has spread as far as Beijing as more and more people can’t get enough of Sichuan’s complex and stimulating flavours. Expect cold spicy meats, spicy and fragrant noodle soups, spicy and sweet tofu and of course, spicy hot pot. The key word is …
宫保鸡丁 Gōng bǎo jī dīng: Diced chicken with peanuts and chilli. The sour tang cuts through the hot sweetness, making a deliciously balanced dish. Peanuts add texture and a salty-nutty flavour, spring onions for pungency.
麻婆豆腐 Má pó dòufu: Tofu cooked with fermented chilli bean paste, vinegar, Sichuan peppercorns and topped with minced meat. Has a light and ‘empty’ texture. Vegetarians should ask for no meat. 不放肉Bù fàng ròu.
串串 Chuàn chuàn: Food skewers dipped in boiling, oily, chilli water. In Chuanchuan restaurants you choose your meat and veg, skewer them and cook them in a hot pot. Regular hot pot is also available, using chopsticks and ladles.
小面 Xiǎo miàn: A Chongqing dish of soup noodles. Sichuan peppercorn powder is added along with chilli oil creating a spicy, numbing dish with a satisfying fragrance. Sometimes made with a delicious yellow bean paste. There is a dry version available called Dàndàn miàn担担面. Cheap and cheerful.
抄 手 Chāoshǒu: Sichuan dumplings, similar to wontons. Served without or without soup, these dumplings have the typical sour and spicy Suān là tastes associated with Sichuan.
Visiting one of Chengdu’s many parks is an enjoyable way to unwind. Locals can be seen practicing tai chi and playing games, and visitors may even be asked to rest and try their hand at Mahjong amongst the lush, green surroundings. The people of Chengdu are famed throughout China for being more relaxed and enjoying a slower pace of life than the inhabitants of other big cities, and this is reflected in the huge number of restaurants and teahouses in the city. Chengdu’s teahouses are filled with locals who will happily spend the entire afternoon playing cards, chatting, playing Mahjong, and sipping on freshly brewed tea.
Chinese hip hop has a base in Chengdu. It is possible to find bars and nightclubs around the city to experience live hip hop performances. Check out the bar district by the river in Jiuyanqiao.