July 1, 2019 – Written By Ruixi Hu, founder of Lost Plate Food Tours
I’m Ruixi, born and raised in Chengdu and I started Lost Plate in 2014. As a Sichuanese, eating delicious food is in my blood and I want to share the amazing food China can offer visitors who aren’t from the area.
I love discovering local cuisine while traveling. Every time I travel, whether it’s in China or overseas, my favorite thing to do is scour the city for exciting food and restaurants…especially the small family-run restaurants that have been serving the same food for generations. It’s the best way to see the city and get to know locals that you wouldn’t meet otherwise. I still remember the time I went to Guangzhou for 3 days to meet some friends. They know how much I love food and all we did was eat in different areas at 5-8 places every day! It was 30,000 steps per day and I’ve never been that full before.
Chengdu is More Than Pandas
When you ask a tourist what they know about Chengdu, their answer will be that it’s where pandas are from. When you ask a Chinese what they think about Chengdu, the first thing that comes to mind is FOOD.
For a foodie, Chengdu is paradise! It isn’t the biggest or the richest city in China, but with over 15,000 restaurants it is known as having the most in China. From high-end fine dining to hidden hole in the walls, there’s always something just a street away. Chengdu people have so much passion about food that it’s completely normal to wait 30-60 minutes to eat at your favorite restaurant. Sometimes you’ll see restaurants offering snacks, beverages and even play a movie while you wait.
A Perfect Day in Chengdu
I would start the day at Dongjiao Jiyi, an old factory complex that has been converted into a hip area full of trendy shops, restaurants, cafe, and art. The architecture is very interesting and there are plenty of great instagram opportunities. Grab some coffee at Machine Coffee and lunch at any of the restaurants in the area.
After lunch, head to People’s Park to sightsee and relax. The park has a tea house which is very popular with locals. Take a seat on a bamboo chair, grab some playing cards, get your ears cleaned, and sip on some tea all while taking in the sights of sounds of authentic Chengdu.
For dinner, of course I would suggest taking our evening Lost Plate Food Tour. You will explore local restaurants and neighborhoods by tuktuk to get off the beaten path and explore small pedestrian alleys around the city. It’s a unique way to try a lot of food in one night, and a great way to finish your day!
Hui Gou Rou (Twice Cooked Pork Belly)
If I could eat one thing every day, it would be Hui Gou Rou – or twice cooked pork belly. This is one of the most popular and classic dishes in Chengdu, and it’s something I try in every Sichuanese restaurant because it is the best way for the chef to show how good their skills are. You can find this dish everywhere but only a Sichuan chef can prepare it the right way, and preparing this dish is always a new chef’s final test.
First you boil the entire piece of pork belly for 5-8 minutes and then place it into cold water for it to cool down. Then the pork is then thinly sliced and stir-fried with garlic sprouts, sichuan chili paste, and fermented soy beans. The flavor is a bit sweet, spicy, and salty all at the same time, yet balanced very well and rich in flavor…which is exactly what Sichuan food is all about, a combination of different flavors in every dish.
One of my favorite places in Chengdu to eat Hui Gou Rou is Pan Sun Shi, located on a busy street behind the CBD’s fancy shops. It is very popular with long-time locals and you will likely notice a large number of older customers because the dishes are prepared with the same flavor as they were generations ago.
My Favorite Food Tour Memory
I love our guests! I have hosted so many wonderful people on our tours and they have made it so memorable for me. I still keep in touch with our first ever Lost Plate customer and every time she is in China we will meet for a meal.
When I was in Xian I led a tour with an expat couple who had been living there for two years, but had never eaten any street food until they joined my tour. Two months later they came back to the tour with their friends who were visiting them. He told me that until he took our tour, he never felt comfortable going to local restaurants because it was too stressful for him to understand what to do or what to order. After joining, he said he had the confidence to give it a try and he now has a favorite noodle joint in his neighborhood. He actually said our tour changed his life in Xian, and that comment really made me happy.
Want to Eat (and drink) Local in Chengdu?
Come Join Us!
Our Chengdu Food Tours will take you away from the tourist areas to visit the kind of neighborhood spots that don’t show up on top ten lists, to eat where the locals eat. Click Here for more info.