Sichuan's variety of world-famous dishes is one of the big draws for tourists coming to China's southwest region. In Chengdu, you can find many restaurants specializing in Sichuan cuisine, which has a reputation for being fiercely hot and spicy. Chengdu is also proud of hotpot, another trademark Sichuan dish that is equally as spicy and possilby more well known.
The snacks and street foods that are available on most every street are also noteworthy and recommended for everyone passing through! For less adventurous travelers, Western food and a variety of international restaurants have also found their way to Chengdu.
Having developed for centuries, Sichuan cuisine is one of China's most well known types of cooking and is popular across China, and internationally as well. It is extremely famous for its distinctive spice and unique cooking techniques - some of the most popular dishes include Twice Cooked Pork (回锅肉), Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐), Kung Pao Chicken (宫保鸡丁), and Fish-Fragrant Pork (鱼香肉丝).
- Chen's Mapo Tofu Restaurant, located at No. 197 West Yulong Street.
Kung Pao Chicken, spicy diced-chicken pieces and peanuts seasoned with hot pepper is another specialty of Sichuan cuisine, possibly the best known of all the Sichuan cuisine dishes around the world. Similarly spicy, two pork dishes of note are: Fish-Fragrant Pork (shredded pork in "fish flavored" sauce, with agaric mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and carrots) and Twice Cooked Pork (pork slices stir-fried twice until crisp).
For a great place to try these tasty Sichuan dishes, we recommended:
- Piaoxue Sichuan Cuisine Restaurant at No. 10 Qintai Road
- Shizilou Restaurant at No. 55 Shuanglin Road
- Baguo Biyi at No. 20 Renmin South Road, Fourth Section
Rivaling these spicy Sichuan dishes in popularity across Sichuan is hotpot. Chengdu hotpot (火锅) retains some of the characteristics of Chongqing's hotpot cuisine (the self-proclaimed "birthplace of hotpot") while adding its own features. You can choose to put in three or four different kinds of spices and peppers to increase the "burn" you feel, or opt for a half spicy and half broth-like soup for a less zesty experience.
Among Chengdu hotpot restaurants, we think the best are:
- Huangcheng Laoma Restaurant, situated at No. 20 Qintai Road in Chengdu's Qingyang distract. Besides their flagship hotpot, they also offer Sichuan's stunning Changing Face Opera performance and shadow plays.
- Located at No. 2 Wannianchang Road in the Chenghua district, Shizilou Restaurant is another old-fashioned hotpot restaurant.
- What makes Tanyutou Restaurant stand out from other restautants is their delicious fish-head hotpot. There are franchises all over the country and Chengdu has one near Qingyang Palace at No. 227 Qingyang Zhengjie.
Street Snacks are hidden gems that can be found down many of the streets and alleys of Chengdu. With a variety of options to choose from, these options are great while on-the-go or when you are in the mood to try something new.
- One chain of snack shops called Chuan Chuan Xiang (串串香) is one of the most well-known in Chengdu. They offer grilled vegetables, seafood, and meat on bamboo sticks or cooked in a hotpot-type broth. All the sticks are either roasted on the grill or cooked to order in hotpot, so the taste is sure to be particularly fresh and flavorful.
- Fu Qi Fei Pian (夫妻肺片), another traditional snack in Chengdu, is actually braised cow lungs. Although the name of this dish has repelled many people, once they have a taste, they are sure to come back again and again. Fu Qi Fei Pian is made with particular condiments using a delicate process - the best place to try it is Jingcheng Yuan Restaurant, located at No. 23 Zongfu Road in the center of Chengdu.
- Lai Tang Yuan is named after the surname of its creator and is a soft, sweet rice ball cooked in a soup, with a number of different delicious fillings.
- Long Chao Shou is another traditional Chengdu snack well liked by many tourists and locals. It is a wonton, which is similar to a dumpling but with thinner skin. Several shops in Chengdu serve Long Chao Shou such as the Chunxi Road shop at No. 8 Chunxi Road South Section, the Huanhua shop at No. 9-3 Huahua North Road in Qingyang district, and the Zhixin shop at No. 1-14 North Zhixin Street, Wuhou District.
For vegetarians and vegans, excellent vegetarian food can also be found in Chengdu. Located inside of Wenshu Temple, Wenshu Temple Vegetarian Restaurant offers vegetarian dishes with an English menu. Zhaojue Temple Vegetarian Restaurant is another restaurant that serves good vegetarian food with lower prices than Wenshu's.
With the spread of Western culture to China, Western food has become an inseparable part of Chengdu fare. There are a number of Western restaurants where you can find a wide range of Western standards such as steak, pizza and salads. Most of these restaurants are located in the south part of Chengdu.
- Grandma's Kitchen and Shamrock Bar are classic hangouts for Chengdu's expat community and visiting foreigners. Both have a great selction of appetizers and entrees, and they are located across the street from each other at No. 15 Renmin Road South, Section 4.
- In addition, typical Western food and desserts are also available at Highfly Cafe on Bingjiang Road and any of the six locations of Peter's Tex-Mex Grill in Chengdu, which serves Tex-Mex style dishes and milkshakes. To find a Peter's location, you can probably grab a foreigner on the street and have them tell you, or go to Chengdu's Tongzi Lin neighborhood, where a number of the locations are.
The new Galleria mall by Chengdu's 3rd Ring Road, near Ikea Home Goods, has a number of fantastic Western options as wll, including one of the Peter's Tex-Mex locations, Subway, which serves American-style hoagie and submarine sandwiches, and Grappa's Italian restaurant, a franchise of an upscale Hong Kong chain. Grappa's has a great wine selection and brings visiting chefs from Europe and around the world to spice up their traditional Italian dishes.
Chengdu has enough variety to fill up anyone's tastes and even offer a few new dishes to even the most seasoned traveler.