Chengdu Province is a paradise for Sichuan cuisine lovers. I’ve never been there before. But a Chinese friend of mine went to Chengdu last year in search for some unique and authentic Chinese food. He is the owner and executive chef in a Sichuan restaurant in New York. Once in a while, he runs out of the ideas and recipes. Like what he said, “cooking is an art; cooking real Chinese food needs to understand its soul.” He planned a holiday trip to China. His first stop was Chengdu Jinli Street. Why is that?
Jinli is known as the “First Street in Western Chu”. “Chu” was the name of an ancient state ruling Sichuan region back to 405. In the ancient time, Jinli Street was the oldest and busies commercial Street. It was known all over the country from as early as the Qin and Han Dynasties and even the Three Kingdoms period.
The street scene is known as the Chengdu version of the famous “Upper River During the Qing Ming Festival” painting (as the picture shown above). It is located on a street next to Chengdu Wuhou Temple. Before it was rebuilt, the street only had a row of dilapidated houses. In 2004, the owner running Wuhou Temple thought the idea of transforming it into a tourist street. The length of the Jinli Ancient Street is just about 350 meters, but you’ll find everything about the traditional Sichuan cultural here, from the Sichuan tea, Sichuan liquor, to Sichuan Opera. Jinli Street has become the Chengdu’s landmark tourist attraction.
To beat the competition, many local restaurants implement something unique. Some may print their menu on a bamboo book (just like how people read in Three Kingdoms Period); some may offer complimentary performance, such as face changing show or shadow play. But anyway, this is good experience for visitors to Chengdu. Of course, don’t forget to walk on the street and try some local snacks. Otherwise, it will be your biggest regret. I have to say sorry because I can’t give you the English names of these snacks, because even their Chinese names sound really weird:)
However, I figure it’s kind of cool if you know the Chinese pronunciations. So when you are in Jinli, you can talk to anyone what you like to eat. I am sure local people will help you figure out where to get it. This is the list:
- Qíao Miàn (a type of noodles)
- Sān Dà Pào (a type of sweets)
- Níu Ròu Jiāo Biňg (beef pancake)
- Táng Yóu Gǔo Zi (a type of sweets)
- Táng Shǔi Miàn (a type of sweet noodles)
- Liáng Miàn (cold noodles)
- Chòu Dòu Fu (fried stinky tofu)
- And all kinds of Lǔ Cài (braised vegetables and meat).
Of course, you should also learn how to say, “What I want to eat is…” in Chinese. It’s easy! You can say, “Wǒ Xiǎng Chī”. You’ll say this before the name of the food. People will understand you. Not too hard, right?
I hope one day, when you have a chance to visit China, Jinli Street will be one of your destinations. Besides enjoying tasty food, you can do many interesting things in Chengdu. Stay tuned for more traveling tips in China!