This city loves noodles almost as much as it loves tea. And Chengdu looooooves tea. So walk through any neighborhood and you’ll readily find – wedged in with the vegetable shops and the hair dressers and the guys selling who-knows-what – lots and lots of noodle shops. If you live here and you like noodles, it’s easy to be happy at lunchtime.
It’s equally easy to lose track of all of the places you see once by chance and want to eat at later. Our version of this “looks good, need to go back” list grows daily and today we happily sought out and crossed off a noodle shop that was recently added to the list.
This was the first noodle shop we’ve seen where they press the noodles to order. For each bowl, the noodle guy jabs a wad of dough into the press and then lays on the handle until noodles come out of the other end and drop into the water. A lady behind the machine then fishes them out with a wicker strainer and their journey to spicy goodness begins. They’re also a different kind of noodle than we usually see; with their nutty taste and color we’re guessing they're some version of buckwheat.
The noodles that came to our table were swimming in a spicy red pool and flecked with bits of celery and assorted green stems. We liked the noodles but the surprise of the meal was what the guy across from us was eating.
We had noticed them waiting in the steamers out front, but only after seeing them at our table were we temped to get our own. We got two of the soft white orbs and discovered they are filled with pork and delicious. The outer skin is difficult to explain – soft, chewy, and unexplicably reminiscent of cheese. Actually the whole thing is like a mountain delight you would find waiting for you back in town after a hike through the Alps. This means they’re awesome. Really, really awesome.
So we ate the two we ordered and then we ordered two more. This was after we had finished our noodles and a miniature loaf of some kind of rice bread that tasted like brown sugar or beer or something soft and fermented. These had also been lined up in the steamers out front.
A woman who later sat down at our table told us we should buy more of the meat-filled orbs for dinner; just heat them up in the microwave, she said, and they'd still taste great. She also told me to take the oscillating fan next to our table and point it at myself so I wouldn’t be so hot and sweaty. This lady has a lot of good ideas.
So, overall – with the great food and the wise table-mates – today’s visit was a solid success. One down, so many more to go.