Chengdu is known for its food, actually, it is known for its spicy food. Chengdu is not just any food city, it is a UNESCO city of gastronomy. There is no better way for a family of Westerners to learn about the food than to do a Chengdu Food Tour and eat some Sichuan food.
We organised to meet our guide Alina at the Wenshan Monastery subway stop at 4.30pm. After initial greetings and some short history about Chengdu, China we were off to our first taste of Sichuan food. Straight from the start Alina was warm, extremely knowledgeable and paid attention to the kid’s questions, including them in all of the conversations
Little did we know stop number 1 was only 50 meters from the metro exit. A little mum and dad hole in the wall style shop selling the most amazing baked bread pocket. The three varieties came filled with sliced beef, bamboo or gelatin noodle. They were then filled with julienned veggies and a sauce of chilli oil, garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, Sichuan peppercorn and spices.
The sauce was very tasty. It had a great balance of taste and spice, just make sure you lean forward when you are eating it so you don’t drop it on yourself. This was a great start to the tour with lots of laughing as Alina was constantly having to remind us to lean forward all the time. This Chengdu snack was amazing.
We wandered down the streets with Alina pointing out foods and showing us snacks that locals eat. We headed into the Wenshu Monastery area for our next meal. We arrived at Zhang Lao Er Liang Fen to be greeted by what can only be described as chaos, with people everywhere.
There were staff darting in and out and around tables, people arriving and leaving all at once. Alina explained it is the sort of place you grab a seat anywhere quickly eat and leave since it’s so popular. It is what they call a ‘fly’ restaurant…it is a hive of activity.
We had sweet water noodles 甜水面, and Huang Liang Fen 煮凉粉(made of sticky rice starch and covered in fermented bean paste and chilli oil). The thick noodles and dark tar-like sauce made an amazing combination as you slurped your way through a bowl of goodness. For the Chinese in Sichuan, it is not just about the taste it is about the texture of the food as well.
Alina leads us to the nearby Wenshu Monastery, where there is one the nicest and busiest tea houses in Chengdu. The Tea House culture is very important to people in Chengdu. It is somewhere to relax and chat, it’s somewhere to eat and drink and it’s somewhere to continue with the traditions of their past.
On the way to our next destination, we stopped off at a local bakery that sold an array of biscuits, cakes and sweets. Alina said it is a must we try these cookies that were flavoured with the Sichuan peppercorn. The taste was both strange and engaging, the biscuit crumbled and melted in your mouth like a Yoyo biscuit. It was also here that Alina encouraged the girls to practice their Chinese by ordering. They both did very well.
We wandered along the streets of Chengdu chatting about our lives and travels, the difference between Eastern and Western living. It was great to get the opinion of a Westerner who has lived in China for 7 years.
We headed into the local food market where all sort of things are on sale, things you want to see and some you don’t. One of the things they like to eat in Chengdu is deep-fried rabbits heads. We asked Alina if we could skip this part. We had our two kids with us and we have pet rabbits at home in Australia which she completely understood and steered us in a different direction.
The market gave us a chance to see and taste the famous peppercorn that makes the Sichuan food what it is. If you put a peppercorn between your teeth and just put some pressure on it (not crush it) you will get the taste and not the burn. Just one peppercorn and you could feel the numbing effect this peppercorn has.
In the market, we sampled the Chinese version of the spring roll. The Vietnamese roll is the most famous and they use rice paper while the Chinese use a flour-based wrapper for their version. It is stuffed full of local vegetables drizzled with a Sichuan sauce and I can assure you these things packed a big taste.
By this time we were pretty full but Alina told us it was time for the main meal so we headed to the Ming Ting restaurant. This is the type of place you fill the lazy susan with dishes and go for your life. It seemed as fast as Alina was ordering, another dish would appear on the table
We had an amazing array of dishes including
- Fish soup
- Chinese Cucumber
- Prawns with noodles
- Fried eggplant dish
- Mixed Chinese vegetables
- Sugar Corn
- Morning Glory
We washed this down a local beer for us adults while the kids had a sprite. Alina was one of the best guides we have ever had on any of our food tours. Chengdu food tours sure know how to conduct a tour, this adventure went for around 4 hours and in the end, we had to throw the towel in and walk away from the food as we were just so full.
Where to stay in Chengdu
We stayed at Ibis Chengdu East Railway Station. It is on the edge of the city centre. close to the subway and buses. The high-speed railway station is only 1.5 kilometres away. Standard Ibis Hotel with comfortable beds, and amenities. Click here for more on Ibis Chengdu.
Chengdu has accommodation for every type of budget for hostels, apartments hotels and more. Search the map below for you Chengdu accommodation
How to get to Chengdu
Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport is the major international airport serving Chengdu and the Sichuan province. The airport is located about 16 kilometres southwest of downtown Chengdu.
Chengdu airport is an important aviation hub for Western China. Currently, a second airport is being constructed to handle the air traffic into Chengdu. In 2017, 49 million people travelled through Chengdu International Airport.
Chengdu east train station is the major hub in South-East China. The station has 14 platforms and 26 tracks. It is serviced by the high-speed railway line with connections to many parts of China. You can search you trains tickets at Trip.com
Money in China
The Chinese Yuan or RMB is the official currency. Banknotes are available in RMB 0.1, RMB 0.5, RMB 1, RMB 5, RMB 10, RMB 20, RMB 50, RMB 100. China is seemingly transitioning to a cashless society through its use of Alipay and Wepay. These are apps that allow you to pay on your phone. You won’t find ATM’s at shopping centres or on random streets, all ATM’s are located at banks.
Weather in Chengdu
Looking for some warmth then July is the hottest month in Chengdu with an average temperature of 26°C (78°F). The humidity also kicks in during the summer months. Warm clothes are needed in January which is the coldest month with an average of temperature of 7°C (44°F). Sunscreen needs to be applied in June with 10 hours average of Sunshine, the longest of any month. The wettest month is July with an average of 200mm of rain.
We hope you enjoyed this article from Wyld Family Travel. Please find 2 more articles below for your reading enjoyment. Just click the description to read.
About the Author
Mark Wyld is a father, Husband and traveller. Having been to over 30 countries worldwide I think I know a thing or 2 about travelling with kids. I have been writing about travel on our website for the last 4 years and have featured on numerous other websites. When I am not talking, dreaming and planning travel I can be found working in disability support