Food

5 things to try in Chengdu, China’s street food paradise

Jul 31, 2019

Sichuan cuisine is known for its numbingly spicy flavors, and there’s no better place to test your palate than the province’s capital, Chengdu.

Chengdu is the heartland of Sichuan cuisine.
Chengdu is the heartland of Sichuan cuisine. / Photo: Nicholas Ko

This is the heartland of Sichuan cuisine, and it’s home to a vibrant street food culture. Here, you can get delicacies like meat pie, rabbit head, and ice jelly on the go.

The secret is the numbingly spicy kick that comes from chili and Sichuan peppercorn.

Sichuan cuisine is characterized by its liberal use of spices.
Sichuan cuisine is characterized by its liberal use of spices. / Photo: Nicholas Ko

We roamed the streets of this southwestern city for the best eats. Most of these items can be found on Chunxi Road 春熙路, a pedestrian street in the city’s downtown. Just keep your eyes peeled 👀

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Meat pie 锅魁

This iconic street snack, known as guokui in Chinese, is a pie stuffed with tasty minced pork—and it’s all handmade.

The dough, made from wheat flour, is first flattened into the shape of an oblong pizza. Then seasoned minced pork is spread on top.

The whole thing gets rolled up and flattened again into a pie shape. Then it’s pan-fried to make it crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.

There’s also a variation that replaces meat with starch jelly noodles.

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Rabbit head 兔头

Although the dish sounds exotic, rabbit head, or tutou, is a favorite across China, beloved for its tender meat, and no one does it quite like Chengdu.

Here, the heads are marinated in a variety of different spices and hot sauce before being roasted. Some places also slow-cook the heads to make the meat soft and brittle.

Vendors on the street sell rabbit head ready to eat out of the bag. Part of the experience is cracking open the skull with your bare hands.

Rabbit meat is a popular protein in Sichuan province, which consumes more than half of all rabbit meat in China.

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Skewers 串串

The Chinese name of this dish, chuanchuan, literally means food on sticks. On Chunxi Road, you’ll find vendors peddling these off moving carts.

The premise is simple: you point at what you want, and the vendor will prepare them on sticks for you. Common ingredients include lotus root, sausage, and chicken innards.

The skewers are then soaked in a cold chili oil with white sesame seeds. It’s a great way to try a variety of meats and vegetables.

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Sticky rice balls 糖油果子

Sichuan’s claim to fame might be its spicy food, but not everything here will set your mouth on fire.

This popular local dessert is called tangyou guozi. They’re sticky rice balls that are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.

The snack is made with glutinous rice flour rolled into balls. They’re then deep-fried in an oil with brown sugar mixed inside, which gives them that glistening sheen.

All that is topped with white sesame seeds for extra fragrance.

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Ice jelly 冰粉

Finally, this dessert is the perfect way to cool off after eating so many spicy dishes.

Bingfen, as it is known in Chinese, is a cold sweet jelly topped with fruits and nuts.

Common toppings include watermelon, pineapple, and dragonfruit.

ChengduStreet food

Credit

Producer: Nicholas Ko

Writer: Daisy Dai

Narrator and Mastering: Victor Peña