Chengdu is a UNSECO World City of Gastronomy, and famous globally for its cuisine. It has tens of thousands of restaurants, and amazing food around every corner – but sometimes the choice can be overwhelming. Are expats and visitors able to tap into the best Chengdu has to offer, or do we too often resort to what we know?
We collected a list of 5 of the most frequented and talked-about-in-English local restaurants, and sent our local food-man, Jordan Porter of Chengdu Food Tours, out to try them and let us know what he thinks:
Chen Mapo Tofu 陈麻婆豆腐
Chen Mapo Tofu reigns supreme in guidebooks, onTripAdvisor and is on the list of things to try for most tourists to the city. First things first – there is no longer an ‘original Chen Mapo Tofu’ restaurant – it is now a ‘China Time Honored Brand’ and so owned and run by the government. Whilst it’s now largely a (domestic) tourist restaurant, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make decent food.
They have a wide variety of Sichuan classics served up in small portions so you can sample a whole bunch, in a clean and comfy ‘Chinesey’ setting. If it’s your first night in town its a great place to get the lay of the land, or to take your parents when they come to town. It has a pretty good Mapo Tofu to use as a measuring stick, but do be sure to try some others.
Qingyang District, Donghuamen Street No. 15
And several other locations in Chengdu
Da Dong Bei 大东北
Together with the restaurant’s proximity to the Minorities University and English menu have made it a mainstay of foreign diets for years. To be completely honest, I’m not sure how this place would stack up in the North-East, but I’m glad it exists in Chengdu.
12 Wuhouci Heng Street, No 2, 2F
Hai Di Lao Hotpot 海底捞火锅
Kehua Middle Road No. 2, Wanfujing Shopping Mall 4F, L04009
6-7F Yuan Guang Xin Ye Mall, Jiu Yan Qiao
2 JianShe North Road, Section 3
and a bunch of other locations in Chengdu
Zhuan Zhuan Mo aka The Rabbit Place 转转磨
The highlight though, for most people here is the rabbit. But honestly, the hand shredded roast rabbit, is a pretty watered down and I got to say it, boring version, of a Sichuan classic. It’s still crispy and reasonably tasty, and maybe it’s the lack of spice is that draws people in, but judged on the scale of rabbits in Chengdu its decidedly tame and mediocre一般般).
The duck, roasted on a bed of crispy rice, is however delicious and one of my favorite dishes there. Zhuan Zhuan Mo is cool, but if you want a rabbit make your way west a couple blocks into Yulin and check out Wang Ma Shou Si Tu. That’s the real deal Rabbit Restaurant.
No.34 Jinxiu Road , F5 锦绣路34号五楼 [up The Beer Nest – take the glass elevator on the corner]
It’s good chuan chuan, known for being spicier than most, and with pretty banging rabbit heads you can order on the side. To me, there is too much other good food in that neighborhood to wait justify the wait, but at the same time the sea of people-in-waiting sprawling across the street is something to be experienced in and of itself. I must admit I admire their commitment to their dinner plans.
Qingyang District, KuiXing Lou Street No. 33
and several other locations in Chengdu
Chengdu is full of amazing food in every corner of the city. Everyone’s entitled to like what they like but we highly recommend changing up your routine, finding new places and pushing your limits. Don’t just go where you know! Look for anywhere that’s consistently busy with locals of a variety of ages and you should be good to go.
Jordan Porter’s key to Sichuan food success: Is there is a bald, 40-year-old man drinking baijiu with his buds there? If it’s good enough for him it’s good enough for me.
More infomation from Sichuan food expert, food writer and founder of Chengdu Food Tours can be found at www. chengdufoodtours.com