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Museum of Sichuan Cuisine Chengdu
9am - 6:30pm
Guzhencheng, Pixian
028 8791 8008
028 8791 9398
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Susan Johnson (more chengdu)
It's possible to enjoy a visit to the Museum of Sichuan Cuisine in Pixian without ever entering the museum part - the outdoor displays, tea house, Kitchen God Ancestral Hall, and restaurant are all separate from the actual museum and were the busiest part of the complex when we visited recently. The grounds also have a pond, park, and a Three Kingdoms era spring named after a vignette in Liu Bei's life. The museum sells its own Pixian bean paste, fermented black beans, and other foodstuffs. The main draw of the outdoor area is the long rows of vats containing Pixian bean paste, or dou ban jiang, which has been described as the soul of Sichuan food. The Chinese-only museum displays explain the history and development of Sichuan cuisine and show a variety of cookware, tableware, and menus. The outdoor displays include a small farm area. There were students visiting when we were there, and the children were feeding a goat and marvelling at how the duck slept on one leg with its head under its wing.

We were definitely looking forward to lunch as a highlight of the visit, and the restaurant has tables both inside and outside on the terrace by the pond. We were handed a characters-only menu, but the server managed to find one with English and pictures. We liked the pao cai that came out before the other dishes. The yu xiang pork shreds managed to give the meat a fishy flavour, which is the test of 'yu xiang' dishes. The kong xin cai was nicely done. As we ate, we saw lots of other classic Sichuan dishes pass the table, like mapo tofu and gong bao ji ding.

After lunch we went into the teahouse and were offered mao feng tea for a very reasonable 10RMB/glass or piao xue for twenty. By two in the afternoon we were dozing off in the teahouse when the sound of cymbal-like traditional instruments and high-pitched singing woke us. There is a Chinese opera performance in the park on Sunday afternoons and several locals were enjoying it. This was quite a different atmosphere from the raucous, duelling performances that fill Chengdu parks on the weekends.

Our final impression was more of a cool, local, historical park than of a museum, but it is a great place to hang out, see and taste some very standard Sichuan food and soak up the local atmosphere. We'd booked our tickets online for 18RMB, which was supposedly discounted from RMB30. We arrived to find the regular price was 20RMB, which they said was a special price with an indefinite end date. Since the previous price was 60RMB, we think this is a deal. A Chinese speaking guide can take guests around the museum for free, but English speaking guides are 200RMB each and should be reserved ahead of time. Food classes and demos can also be arranged.

Because many people come to Chengdu just for the food, we wish the museum was a bit more accessible to the city. Via car or transit, visitors face a trek each way and it is a tough destination to squeeze into a half-day itinerary. However, since the high speed 'dong che' has a stop in Pixian, the museum can be part of a two day Qingcheng Mountain/Dujiangyan trip that includes mountain climbing, hot springs, and a little culinary history.

Museum of Sichuan Cuisine Chengdu
Museum of Sichuan Cuisine Chengdu Museum of Sichuan Cuisine Chengdu Museum of Sichuan Cuisine Chengdu