Chengdu Snacks: The Well-Known and the Little-Known

Chengdu Snacks: The Well-Known and the Little-Known
By Michael Webster ,

My favourite part of Chengdu cuisine has always been the snacks. There is such a diversity of taste, type and texture in all these delicious xiaochi, one could spend their whole life enjoying Chengdu snacks and it would not be a wasted life. Below is an  introduction to some of Chengdu’s most famous local snacks.

1) Dandan Mian (担担面) is a spicy noodle dish made with peppers, minced meat, garlic and peanuts. The noodles are coated in oily sauce, so it's more like fried noodles or spaghetti than noodle soup. These savoury noodles used to be a ware for street vendors, but they are now a staple of virtually every restaurant that sells Chengdu snacks. There is also a chain of restaurants called Dandan Mian, which specializes in this dish.

2) Hongyou Shuijiao (红油水饺) are jiaozi (Chinese dumplings) served in a sweet and spicy red oil. While jiaozi is traditionally Northern fare, these tasty treats are all Sichuan. The serving size is usually pretty small, just a few dumplings, but it's a necessary and welcome addition to your table of snacks. Hongyou Shuijiao should be available at any Chengdu Snack restaurant.

Ya’er Ba

3) Ye’er Ba (叶儿粑) is what you hear the guy on the bike with a cart mournfully yelling at 1am on the bar streets. It's a steamed snack that is sticky rice on the outside and meat and spices on the inside, and it's wrapped in a leaf. They are certainly one of the most delectable of the street snacks.

4) Leng mian (冷面) are cold noodles. While I'm on the topic of foods served by people peddling bikes while peddling wares, I would be remiss if I neglected the cold noodles of Chengdu. If you are reading this article in a net bar, you can probably see a cold-noodle guy or girl walking around taking orders right now. Although they are not my favourite Chengdu snack, they do hit the spot on a late night. The guy will take a serving of noodles and mix them with some spicy sauce, vinegar, MSG and whatever else he has on his little cart that you point at. Cheap and fast, just the way we like it.

Dou Hua

5) Dou hua (豆花) is a very soft doufu (tofu/beancurd) that is also peddled on the street. When you stop the old man and ask for some douhua, he'll open one big bucket from one side of his bike and put a scoop of fresh, soft dofu into a little plastic bowl. Then he'll open the other big bucket and give you a ladle full of spicy sauce, hopefully the kind with peanuts. You then mix the douhua with a little plastic spoon and enjoy. It's really a shame that most foreigners I run into have a hearty fear of all things related to what they call, “Tofu.” They seem to know it only as a vegetarian meat replacement that makes really disgusting burgers. If you fall into this category, then you need to get out and really try some of the exquisite varieties of doufu.  Except for stinky doufu. That has no redeeming features at all.


Stinky tofu

6) Stinky Doufu (臭豆腐) is stinky. I am an absolute hypocrite if you look at the last paragraph, because I have never been willing to place something that smells that bad in my mouth. It might really be delicious. I don't know. If it is, leave a comment here and tell me. I still won't believe you. I'm really only including it on this list so you can get a look at those characters, and if you see them you will know to run the other way or at least cover your nose with a perfume scented handkerchief. They will usually be sold on the street from a glass-case on wheels with those three characters in red on the glass window.  Be brave. Try it. Let me know how it goes.

Nangua Bing

7) Nangua Bing and Nangua Qiu (南瓜饼, 南瓜球) are some of my personal favourites. Ten years ago, everyone in Chengdu knew that the place to go for these delicious pumpkin cookies was the bakery right down the street from the Wenshu Temple. However, progress has removed that bakery and changed pumpkin cookies forever. Now, instead of the fat, large cookies that used to be sold, they are almost always bite-sized. And they really vary in quality from place to place. The cookies are like an Oreo, there is a layer of delicious fried and sweetened pumpkin between two sesame cookies. The pumpkin balls are the same delicious fried and sweetened pumpkin, but just rolled in sesame seeds without the cookie. They are way better than anything that the girl scouts sell and I really want a couple jin of them right now. Just go to any of those street bakeries that have a whole bunch of plastic bins, and in one of those bins will be pumpkin cookies and pumpkin balls.

This is just a few of the thousands of Chengdu snacks that are available. If you really want to try all the snacks you can go to Jinli Street, which is the famous Chengdu snack street beside the Wuhou Temple. They have all sorts of appetizing Sichuan treats. You can also go to one of the many snack restaurants in Chengdu and order a “sampler” which will usually be around 100 yuan and will have one of everything on the menu. I recommend Huangchengba Snacks.

Wuhou Dajie BranchView In Map
Add: 256 Wuhou Dajie, Chengdu
Tel: 028 8507 6117

Wanda Mall BranchView In Map
Add: Wanda Mall, 3rd Floor
Tel: 028 8419 1518

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Keywords: Sichuan cuisine Chengdu snacks Sichuan food Chengdu street food


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