Sweet Water Noodles
The dish that surprised me the most during this trip, the noodles are sweet. It is sort of like eating cupcakes topped with maple glazed bacon. It sounds super weird at first, but makes perfect sense once you try it.
Tian Shui Mian (甜水面), or sweet water noodles directly translated, is one of the most popular street snacks that locals love. The handmade noodles shape like uneven ropes that are as thick as chopsticks. They are served in a boldly flavored sauce. A generous sprinkle of coarse granular sugar flakes touch up the final dish.
A few strips of these fat noodles will fill a small bowl. The noodles are chewy with the fresh wheaty aroma and a hint of salt. You only need to stir a few times to briefly mix the noodles and the sauce. Every bite bursts with sweetness, saltiness, spiciness, and prickly flavors. The amazing texture from crispy chili flakes and crunchy sugar is the biggest delight.
White Fungus Soup
The white fungus soup is especially loved as a snack food, made from the edible fungus also known as snow fungus and white tree-ear. Often mixed with berries, nuts, lotus seeds, dried longan or goji berries, this sweet soup boasts a variety of flavors, not to mention textures. This dessert soup is enjoyed during hot weather, and as the white fungus is said to provide health benefits such as improved skin, respiratory systems and lungs, it is a well-loved dish in Chengdu.
Hui Guo Rou
Thin strips of pork belly are boiled, then stir-fried with garlic scapes before being taken to the next level with fermented soy beans and a touch of chilies. This dish is a great option for anyone looking for just a hint of spiciness.
Amongst other ingredients, Mapo Tofu is a tofu based dish combined with black beans, spicy sauce and pork or beef depending on the diner’s preference. Easy to make, Mapo Tofu is a favorite with tourists, locals and cooks worldwide.
The ingredients create a simple but addictive fusion of flavors to entice even the weakest tastebuds, and the story behind Mapo Tofu is even more distinctive than the dish itself. Often translated as Pockmarked Lady’s Bean Curd, this dish was apparently named after an old lady with pockmarked skin who would serve the now famous dish.
There are two versions of guo kui that you will find on the streets of Chengdu. One involves spiced ground meat stuffed into handmade dough that is then rolled into a pancake shape before being fried and baked to crispy perfection. The other is like a pita sandwich where grilled dough is filled with ingredients like braised beef, picked vegetables, bamboo shoots, and glass noodles.
Dan Dan Noodles
This noodle dish is usually made up from minced pork, scallions, chili oil, Sichuan peppers and peanuts. The name dan dan roughly translates to pole over shoulder, and originated more than a century ago when vendors would walk the streets carrying noodles in a basket hanging from a pole, resting on the vendor’s shoulder.