One of my favorite aspects of Chinese culture is the food. Although most of what is referred to as Chinese food in the United States in not terribly authentic, it has always been a favorite of mine, I have found authentic Chinese cuisine to be much more to my liking. Whether it be stinky tofu sold on the street, boiled dumplings served at a family restaurant, or hotpot with a large group, Chinese cuisine has a high degree of variance.
As mentioned above, boiled dumplings have been a favorite meal of mine since arriving in China. There is a small restaurant located near the Huaxi campus of Sichuan University which specializes in many variations of jiaozi, including boiling and frying cooking methods and various fillings including pork, beef, chicken, and, my personal favorite, egg and leeks.
Also touched on in the opening paragraph, there is a wide variety of tofu available in China. When most Americans think of tofu they envision bland and flavorless substance. However, in China it comes in many different dishes with many unique flavours, such as stinky tofu, which is cooked in a mix of spices that, while it produces an aroma that many consider to be unpleasant, has a very flavourful taste. Other varieties include fragrant tofu, which is sliced tofu squares with a variety of spices, including chili powder and various vegetable shavings.
Hot pot is, quite literally, a centerpiece of Sichuanese cuisine. Commonly consumed in relatively large groups, a pot filled with a spiced stew of sorts is placed on a stove burner in the center of the table. Once it begins to boil, the consumer will then place various types of food into the pot to cook, including various types and cuts of meat, ranging from the relatively typical cuts of beef and pork, to more exotic types such as pig brain, chicken head, and cow stomach. I, personally, prefer extra-firm, cubed tofu and rice noodles in my hot pot.
All of the above dishes are those that I have consumed within Sichuan province; however, the regional cuisine within China has much variety. Although I have only spent a brief amount of time outside of Sichuan, my short amount of time in Xi’an, the capital of Shanxi province, demonstrated that the cuisine varies widely. Although I will not go into great detail, the primary difference between Sichuan and Shanxi cuisine is that Sichuan cuisine is much spicier, which I personally find more appetizing.
To be quite honest, one of the things that I will miss the most upon my return to the United States is the food. I am sure that I will find many more dishes in the local cuisine that I enjoy as I continue my time in Chengdu.