chengdu ying jia restaurant, chengdu

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also known as 成都映家. located (I think) on the ‘wide’ side of kuanzhai street. traditional szechuan food, though I have no basis on which to vouch for its authenticity.

the only thing I really knew about szechuan food before coming here was its heavy use of chilli and oil. now that I was here, you realise that beyond that, they have a very complex food culture that differs in taste and feel from my traditional and familiar cantonese food. I emphasise this a lot – largely because sometimes the variety of chinese cuisines gets lost under the overriding umbrella of “chinese” found in restaurants all over the world (those are also mostly cantonese, though highly bastardized).

in any case, this meal was a good introduction to local food. we started with a bright purple drink – I spotted this on many tables together with many bottles of alcohol (very typical chinese entertaining – the alcohol I mean) – which we found was actually a mild sweet potato drink. very filling but it felt nutritious and wholesome and good. the complimentary appetisers were very salty and spicy, and we could only manage a little of each.

this was followed by cold liangfen noodles – 凉粉 – starch jelly with a salty savory sauce. these are very bland noodles with an intensely salty sauce, and we found it interesting. very quickly the mains followed: a tasty grilled pork dish – we ordered a second dish once finishing the first half; scallops with vermicelli and garlic; tangy vinegary jellyfish; kailan stems; a egg-tofu stew in a crab-roe-coloured sauce; pan-fried gyozas that had a tasty filling but a very thick skin and oily; very sweet pork rib and sweetcorn soup; an oily but tasty dish of celery and prawns; and all this finished with a bowl of sesame dumplings, steamed papaya with hashima and a traditional dessert that I cannot remember, but was starchy and had beans in it.

the food was all good, but I think local food is too oily to my taste and so I washed much of what I ate in tea before eating. I think you realise upon eating these just what sorts of tasty and hearty food people can create to try and deal with the cold and bitter weather. I forgot to mention that this restaurant was multi-storey, with the floors above the basement sort of balconies looking down on the performance stage in the basement which had a chinese band playing for the night. a good visit.

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