Susan Johnson (more chengdu)|
Making the rounds at Chengdu’s various spicy and numbing specialties will eventually lead heat-seeking gourmands to taro chicken (芋儿鸡). Jue Cheng Taro chicken has several locations in town, and we stopped in at the branch by the south gate of SWUFE. The original restaurant was so popular that another location opened two doors down, so both restaurants are in the same family. The menu is a single page offering small, medium, and large pots of taro chicken or taro rabbit. Vegetables can be ordered on the side for 5- 15RMB each. Customers choose a size of pot and then can add vegetables to it. The menu also offers skewers of various chicken and rabbit parts, which are very popular. The drink section lists beer, peanut milk, Coke and Sprite.
The genius of taro chicken is that it is prepared in a pressure cooker, the better to infuse the flavours into the food. The taro balls came out so soft they were falling apart, and the seasonings made a spicy sludge in the pot that contained tender chunks of chicken and potatoes and mushrooms. We were not asked what level of pepper we preferred, but the default is plenty hot. We all had the typical reaction to Sichuan heat where the first bite is a shock but then it’s so good you can’t stop eating. We shared a bottle of peanut milk to wash down the heat. The servers were accommodating when waved over, but had to be reminded a couple of times to bring out drinks and rice. We ended up grabbing our own drinks from the cooler. The taro chicken is a great cold weather dish and memorably spicy. A small order will feed two to three people; medium four to five; large six to eight. Usual cost per head is 60-80 RMB.