|Xiao Tan Dou Hua
|7:30am - 9:30pm|
|86-12, West St., 西大街86号附12; 152 East Daqiang St.|
|028 6671 3039|
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Susan Johnson (more chengdu)|
The specialty of the house is dou hua, soft tofu. There is a plain version (bing zui dou hua) and a sweet version (hong tang dou hua). More interesting are the savoury versions: the san zi dou hua is topped with crispy strips of fried dough, the niu rou dou hua has spicy stewed beef, and the su rou dou hua sports slices of breaded and crisp-fried pork. You can order them with spicy oil (la jiao) or without. One dish that every other customer seems to be enjoying is the shaozi dou hua mian, with the dou hua on the bottom, a layer of wheat noodles, and a topping of savoury meat sauce. Everything is folded together with chopsticks before being eaten. It's a gloppy mixture whose appeal is lost on me, but is definitely popular.
Other worthy items on the menu board are thick noodles in a sweet and spicy sauce (tian shui mian), steamed seasoned beef in rice meal (xiao long zheng niu rou), and boiled pork dumplings in a spicy and sweet garlicky red oil (zhong shui jiao). I also see people ordering the local classic husband and wife lung slice (fuqi feipian), though I haven't tried it myself. The mushroom noodles (kou mo mian) are bland, better ordered elsewhere. We wanted to try the steamed mushroom dumplings (mogu zheng jiao) but they were sold out.
The shop has a rep that belies its small size, so people flood in during lunchtime. Strangers crowd together at tables. People stand behind your chair waiting for you to leave. People get their orders and eat standing. This is all handled with the same accommodating attitude that is displayed on crowded buses. Others are more than willing to get up, mid-slurp, so you can squeeze into that last empty chair against the wall . All the same, we were thrilled to spot a new branch of Xiao Tan Dou Hua while strolling down Tai Shan Nan Lu. We sampled the wares and found them up to par, and without the crowds.