If there is one city you need to take a food tour, then Chengdu is that city. Sichuan food is an experience that deserves its own tour. That’s why we jumped at the chance to hop on a tuk tuk to discover it with Lost Plate food tours.
We met our guide Chin Oh and 8 other American, British, French and Singaporean travellers and packed ourselves into 3 tuk tuks and set off! It was a strange sight to see tuk tuks in this modern Chinese city, but it definitely added to the charm.
Our first stop was Dan Hong Gao, a tiny kiosk selling egg baked pancakes. We would have never discovered this place if not for Lost Plate Food Tours. The chefs at Dan Hong Gao were making 2-3 pancakes at a time, stuffing it with all sorts of sweet and savoury delicacies.
Chin Oh recommended the pancake named “strange” because it was sweet, spicy and nutty all at the same time! What a great recommendation, it wasn’t strange at all, just really yummy! No wonder Dan Hong Gao had won many awards all proudly displayed in front.
Stop #2 was my most favourite one. Set in the middle of a private military housing complex, Chao Shou is a apartment turned restaurant, named Chengdu’s best hidden restaurant in 2017, serving the best Chengdu dumplings.
It was something right out of king fu panda, not only because they served dumpling (the best I’ve ever tasted) but probably also because of the unassuming setting where bowls full of dumplings kept coming non stop that made me feel a tad bit like Poh!
We tried all sorts of dumplings – original, dry chili, sour spice, soupy!
While we were enjoying our feast, two girls wandered in and were turned away because they had no reservation and the place was sold out. One of the girls started dramatically crying! Only after my first bite into the dumplings did I realise why. Although it was the most basic place set in the middle of no where in there was a reason why it has won a ton of accolades. It wasn’t about the ambiance or the experience. It was just all about the food.
Our next stop was a Sichuan noodle place that Chin Oh said was only a “little bit famous, not too much”. For the life of me I can’t figure out why, because the noodles were delish! Once again we tried all sorts of noodles in small bowls – cold noodles for a hot summer day, strong sweet and nutty noodles, the sad jelly noodle that was spicy as hell and the sweet and sour one.
Here we had our first taste of Ma La – the mouth numbing Sichuan red pepper. Although in small doses, this can be deadly but also really really good! The best types of Ma la numbs your mouth for at least 5 mins according to Chin oh. The best type of anaesthetic if you have a tooth to be extracted maybe? But don’t worry the Ma La in the sad jelly noodle (which got its name because the emotion after having Ma la) is really very good. We had tons!
Stop #4 was Sichuan stir fry, really really good Sichuan stir fry.
We had everything from the double fried pork (the best!) to beef soaked in a mala soup/ gravy, stir fried green peppers, the original version of the famous kung pao chicken (the best I’ve ever had) and century egg.
For those moments when you feel like you can’t take more spice, there was also a plate of sticky rice with pumpkin and orange peel, a strange but great combination.
This last dish was a revelation to the history of Sichuan food. It’s evolution has 3 eras: firstly the time before salt mines were discovered in China, everything tasted sweet! And hence the sweet sticky rice with pumpkin, after the discovery of salt, everything was salty! And when westerns started traveling to China in the 16th century, they brought along chili, which the Chinese have now mastered and hence the feeling of fireworks in your mouth.
Our last food stop was another hidden restaurant in a private housing complex. This time it was hot pot.
Not the traditional one, but this hot pot was for satays dipped in a hot bowl gravy. Chin Oh helped us pick all sorts of veggies and meats on sticks to be cooked.
By the time the bowls arrived we were so full, but we couldn’t stop ourselves from reaching out to the aroma filled satays dipped in the bowl. Gluttony at its best (or worse).
Fun fact – Chinese characters are a little bit like hieroglyphs and the word/letter for stick hot pot, looks like food on a stick!
That was it for food and we could barely move, but we had one last stop – drinks! Chin Oh took us to the coolest ancient Chinese styled bar.
It was a dark den where the group downed bottles of Chinese rice wine. If you thought Ma La burnt your throat, wait till you try Shaoxing! Gambe!
All in all we had a great time. Lost Plate Tours had certainly discovered Sichuan’s culinary extravaganza and they are the perfect people to help you discover it too! Thanks for a great time..
Book your tours here and prepare your tastebuds to be wowed.