This is one of our favourite pieces from food writer Jordan Porter – who isn’t in the city anymore, but his ways to win at winter have never felt fresher. If you’re finding winter tough in the city, here’s some little local pick-me-ups.
There’s no doubt that winter is here – it’s cold and grey and somewhat discouraging. But there’s more to Winter in Chengdu than just hiding away and waiting for Spring. The cold winds (its a metaphor, there’s no wind in Chengdu) also blow in a few gems to help you through this somber season.
Don’t miss out on the greatness embedded in the greyness…
Win the winter, win the year!
It’s a veritable sausage party out here! When the weather starts to cool families, restaurants, butchers and artisans all start making cured sausages and smoked meats (腊肉 là ròu). These pork based charcuterie are cured with salt and Sichuan peppercorns before they are smoked and then hung from balconies across the city. They are like the Christmas lights of Chengdu
signaling the arrival of the season… MEAT SEASON. And they are pretty much the tastiest thing around – so tasty I even find myself looking forward to winter from time to time.
Goat is the king of the warming meats (in traditional Chinese Medicine), and as temperatures drop Yáng Ròu Tāng 羊肉汤 places rise in the stead of the summery crayfish spots. Goat carcasses are strung from the rafters or doors of the places to signal the freshness of their meats.
A deep, rich, milky broth is the hot pot base and you order by the pound of meat or organs. If you want the real deal, head out to Jianyang (a city East of Chengdu) to get your soup on.
When the leaves of the gingko trees fall and the ketchup red walls of the temples are divorced from their mustardy counterparts, you may think all color is gone from the sky… but you’d be wrong! Wintersweet (làméi 腊梅) a woody plant, speckled with yellow flowers, which blossoms around Chinese New Year – brings yellow back in to your life.
And much more than that it brings with it a deliciously sweet, floral smell that will light up your whole apartment. The sweetest part of winter, WINTERSWEET. You can get it from street carts and in some flower shops.
No Fs given Fashion
Winter is the ultimate time to just not give a f*** about how you look, and place comfort as the highest goal. No one is judging – get a blanket for your e-bike, wear your padded PJs out to eat, get that granny jacket or leather hat you always wanted.
Honestly, once you go all in on comfort it’s hard to bounce back. And in an (un)ironic way, you sometimes end up looking super fly.
Citrus are native to East Asia and they are in full force through the cold months – almost as if nature knew you’d need the bright colors and vitamin C to lead you on your journey. The diversity here is amazing as well, and most produce at local markets comes from farms just outside the city.
Kumquats (金橘 jīnjú ), pomelos (柚子 yòuzi) and clementines (júzi 橘子) oh My! Why can’t it always be pomelo season? BONUS: citrus peels are tossed into the fires over which the 腊肉 làròu is smoked giving it a zesty punch.
HOT. BEER. Zhǔ píjiǔ 煮啤酒 Because cold beer is bad for healthy – but that won’t stop you from drinking. Dry pot and roast fish places boil up a brew through the winter that is meant to keep you warm. Add ginger, fermented rice, goji and jujubes and heat it up. It ends up more like a mulled beer.
Gotta make hay while the sun shines right? For real though, its pretty good, and you’re definitely not going to drink it in the summer.
Because everyone likes the power in their hands and the fire in the skies! China invented fireworks, but you can’t just get them so easily any time of year. The shops get rolled out in the lead up to Chinese New Year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get them in bulk and stay fired up throughout the winter. They also get cheaper right after the new year…. Just sayin’.
Even if you have the fear of the fire (always use safely) you can keep your eyes to the skies and just enjoy them wholesomely. Note that you’re not allowed not set them off within the third ring road.