Wrapping a cold hand around street snacks like stewed eggs or a freshly steamed baozi on that damp and chilly morning commute can become a ritual.
During Chengdu’s colder months, holding onto a warm bite of something can comfort and fortify
These are oval shaped breads baked and rewarmed in large ovens made from barrels. We’ve noticed a new trend in Chengdu where meat is added to the filling; we actually prefer the plain seasoned or sugared shao bings.
How to find good ones: The quality of shao bing is pretty consistent. Shao bing is always sold on mobile carts; we’ve noticed it lately near Du Fu’s Cottage on the south first ring by Computer City and in front of the provincial orthopedic hospital near Da Shi West Road.
Dan Hong Gao
These are small pancakes about four inches in diameter cooked to order and folded over the customer’s filling of choice. There are a bewildering variety of fillings on each cart; savoury fillings usually include potato shreds, dry tofu, some type of vegetable, some type of pickle and the spicy black bean oil known as lao gan ma. Sweet fillings are often peanut or sesame paste, various jams, sesame sugar, pork floss and cream. We usually get one savoury and one sweet pancake. Dan hong gao is easy to find near schools in the winter months.
How to find good ones: Look for a clean cart, fresh-looking fillings and a smooth, non-lumpy batter. Dan hong gao has been taking off lately and are being sold from shop fronts in Tongzilin and on Qi Dao Yan Street.
In the colder months, we opt for the fried kind of guo kui. This popular snack is found traditionally accompanying pork intestine rice noodles (肥肠粉), another favourite winter food. Guo kui is made by spreading a filling onto a thin layer of dough, rolling it up, and then flattening it from the side into a circle so that filling is wrapped inside bands of dough before the whole thing is shallow fried on a concave grill. They have considerable nutritional as well as thermal calorific value.
How to find good ones: The quality of guo kui varies widely, so it pays to seek out the well-known shops. The beef guo kui from Xin Fu Guo Kui, right near the TCM Hospital subway station, is a revelation, rolled around a generous amount of perfectly seasoned filling and fried golden and crispy.
Jian Bing Guzzi
This one is a two-hander, a large pancake with an egg cooked over the top and then wrapped around a chunk of fried dough, some vegetables and optional sausage or other toppings. We’ve been seeing a very welcome trend in jian bing where all kinds of cool things can be added like cheese, bacon or fried chicken chunks. We like the original kind just fine.
How to find good ones: Look for a clean cart and fresh looking fillings. Jian bing is more of a morning food, and mobile carts are often found near BRT stops and major bus stations. We also like the jian bing dao locations in Tongzilin and Raffles City.
Roasted Sweet Potato
The fragrance of these simple treats hits us on many streets around town as soon as the temperature drops. They are sold by weight and are a perfect snack in the cool weather.
How to find good ones: Cooked potatoes should be plump and not too dark; over-coloured or shrivelled ones are less tasty. Check the vendor’s not yet cooked stock if possible to make sure they are firm, fresh, clean and without worm holes.
by Susan Johnson
Source: MORE Magazine Chengdu, January 2016