Mark Hiew (more chengdu)|
Some restaurants exude all the scents and subtle visual aspects of local home-cooked fare, right down to the cutlery, the grit on the floor, and the script of the hand-written menu. Others just taste right. Jia Chang Wei, or “Home-style Flavors” may not look much like the traditional alley-way family dinners that Sichuanese home-style cooking might conjure, but its quality ingredients, authentic flavors, and competitive prices make it a fine choice when out in the Yiguanmiao/Sports University area of southwestern Chengdu.
Peer through the fogged up shop front and you should be able to glimpse the large vertical sign declaring the restaurant’s name and mission. It specializes in Sichuanese classics, and its Chinese-only menu features a full page of tese (house specialty) dishes. Potted meat and fish dishes abound (38-48RMB), as do specialty fish and frog (37) options. Of the house specials that we tried, the tea tree mushroom and chicken dry pot – gan guo cha shu gu ji (25RMB) provided a balanced mixture of spicy and salty flavors. Visually, it was southwestern Chinese cooking at its most stirring: the dried, stringy dark brown mushrooms lounged with a generous portion of roasted chicken pieces, celery, and red pepper shells.
Similarly easy on the eyes was the golden soft tofu – xie huang dou hua (14), shimmering cubes of melt-in-your-mouth tofu floating in a rich duck egg sauce of burnished yellow, topped with a sprinkle of green onion and served on white porcelain. Mixed with white rice, it was as wholesome as well as delicious, and perfect for the cold weather. Less impressive was the battered golden corn – jinsha yumi (14) which possessed none of the duck egg which normally provides the dish’s signature, slightly sandy texture. We rounded off our meal with a huge portion of vegetable soup (9), which was cleansing and filling as per usual.
Jia Chang Wei is one of those restaurants that in other cities could acquire considerable renown, but in a city as bountiful in great food as Chengdu, merely chugs by with its regular set of neighborhood customers. It may not have the charm of, say, Old Courtyard, but Jia Chang’s Sichuanese is as authentic as it gets. Look to pay between 15-30RMB/person.