Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province in China, is probably best known for it’s Panda Research Base. However, it’s arguably better known for the signature flavor of the hot & numbing Sichuan peppers that give Sichuan cuisine its unique taste. The flavor of Sichuan peppercorns is sort of lemony and most interestingly has a tingling or numbing sensation. The peppers are used for flavor and actually are not really very hot. The intense spice in Sichuan cooking comes instead from red chilies.
We have been to Chengdu more than once and each time it is all about the food. Sure you gotta go look at the cute pandas and such but really for me it’s the food. There are several food streets that cater to tourists and locals alike or you can meander about the city and pop into some food court and enjoy excellent hot & numbing, or “mala” as they say.
Aside from the food streets, be sure to check out Sichuan Changing Faces show and hot pot. My favorite place is Da Miao Hotpot at Zhai Xiang Zi street. There’s also a Da Miao Hotpot in the Jinli area however, this one is at another great pedestrian street that’s certainly worth visiting.
Jinli Pedestrian Street
Maybe a bit touristy but Jinli street and the Chengdu Temple area are a must do. Especially in the evening when the lights come on and the street comes alive with activity. The food scene here is off the hook so take it easy, pace yourself and enjoy street snacks, drinks and people watching.
Giant Panda Breeding Research Base
Protip: Show up at the front gate before they open, buy your tickets and immediately head straight to the Giant Panda area. There are a lot of distractions along the way but those can wait. The panda eat breakfast early, play a bit, … then sleep. If you want to see active pandas doing cute things, then get there early. All the other attractions can be enjoyed later in the day.