Susan Johnson (more chengdu)|
To find the best and most authentic food in Chengdu, you go into the resdential areas and seek out restaurants that cater to the neighbourhood. The lower end of these places often fall into the category of fly restaurant (苍蝇馆子), an unfamiliar term to many Chinese people from outside Sichuan. Fly restaurants are basic places that are open to the street and serve homestyle, or basic stir fried, foods and/or snacks like noodles and dumplings.
Xi Da Dou Tang Fan is the kind of fly restaurant that you are happy to find in your neighbourhood. The interior is careworn, but clean, and the specialty of the house is dou tang, a yellow soup made from soybeans that is becoming increasingly popular in the city's quick meal places. Xi Da's version is delicious, thinner than most, but with a great flavor that we are pretty sure comes from pork intestine. Right by the door are several large pots of shao cai, or Chinese-style stews that have been cooked for a long time and kept warm. Many customers pause by these pots on their way in, giving the contents an examining stir before sitting down to order. You can be in and out of the place in fifteen minutes if you order a shao cai and rice, or a bowl of soup and a vegetable.
Xi Da also has a short menu of homestyle dishes, all made with care. You can find most of the usual suspects here. They have a fantastic version of twice cooked pork made with guo kui bread (锅魁回锅肉), a very good gong bao chicken (宫保鸡丁), pretty standard mapo tofu, and good tiger skin peppers (虎皮青椒). If you want very spicy, order the birds-eye pepper beef (尖椒牛肉). The prices here are lower than usual with most homestyle dishes in the 10-15RMB per serving range.