Susan Johnson (more chengdu)|
With the temperature dropping, we've noticed more and more sheep carcasses hanging outside restaurants around town. This is because one of the most popular ways to warm up in Chengdu is over a steaming bowl of lamb soup (羊肉汤). We've seen the soup eaten hot pot style, but the most common preparation is to simmer lamb meat and sundry parts in a thick white soup and then serve it up. It may be especially tough to get into your neighbourhood lamb soup restaurant on December 22 this year since lamb soup is the traditional thing to eat on Dong Zhi day, the winter solstice.
Lai's Lamb Soup is a small restaurant with a big reputation. The sign outside claims it is an old lamb soup purveyor from Jianyang, a Sichuan city whose lamb soup is its main claim to fame. Soup or hot pot restaurants are usually best-suited for a group of at least two, but when I dropped by solo the server said I could eat lamb rice noodles (羊肉米粉) or a small order of soup for 15RMB. The soup was white, full bodied, and warming. With a little salt from the salt box on the table it was even better. Its caloric properties were evident from the fat that started to coat the middle of my chopsticks, but the soup was rich without being greasy. Offered the choice of bread or rice, I asked for bread and got a warmed-up round of guo kui style bread that the server told me to soak in the soup.
I also tried a basket of steamed spicy lamb in rice meal (粉蒸羊肉). I thought12RMB was a little much for the portion size, but it was a nice change from the more traditional steamed beef and tasted great. A side of veg is 4RMB/order. This is a 24-hour restaurant, and the staff were busy preparing stewed duck, pig parts, rabbit heads, and little fried fish, which tells me this is an evening snack and drink destination. I will bring someone with me next time.