3) having sex once a yearTempting. In parts.
On my visit I embraced number one on the list.
If you ever find yourself in the city of Chengdu, China (I sort of hope you never do) then make yourself feel better with a Sichuan street burger. With any luck the burger will distract you – for a couple of minutes at least – from the 14 million people, the endless grey concrete, the claustrophobic muggy weather and the intense smog engulfing this city.
It looked like a pitta parcel filled with mince meat. And that’s probably the best way to describe it actually. The meat? Beef, I think. With chilies, green beans and spring onions – similar to a spicy shepherd’s pie filling (the Sichuan province is renowned for deliciously hot food). The mince was slightly dry, but it wasn’t a problem when tucked into the moist steamed bread (this is the only time bread should be moist, and the only time, I hope, I’ll use the word “moist” to describe food).
I soon realised that in Chengdu anything with a slightly round shape seems to be classified as a burger. So I tried four different burgers on Jinli Street – the street food mecca – during my visit.
Some sweet red bean paste burgers.
A steamed, meaty, stew/gravy bundle burger (greasy, but delicious). Wipe your oily fingers on the handy leaf.
And then another circular item – or burger – crunchy pastry stuffed with layers of even more pastry and an unidentifiable meat. I spotted rabbit head, duck tongue, chicken feet and various other body parts of animals knocking about, so it was potentially a pastry parcel of one of those.
It’s not all street food though. “AHU Restaurant” is a huge place popular with locals, and soon our purple satin table cloth (think naff not nice) was spread with a spicy array of local dishes. Plates included fish flavoured pork, fried rice with pork, gong bao chicken and another pork dish called “pork without oil” which was, confusingly, swimming in oil. Dishes are typically very spicy – to balance the water in the air in the city – but not overbearingly hot.
When you’re done with all of the eating – and there should be plenty – head to the People’s Park, one of the oldest parks in China. It’s where the locals hang out to drink tea, play games, dance (sort of line dancing but more sincere). There’s also a very original and lovely dating facility in the park. Parents leave signs on sticks detailing the merits of their single children, advising the public on the kind of suitor they are looking for.
For example, “must be taller than 5ft 10, must have a good job, must not wear glasses”. If you fit the bill you can then call the parents and they’ll deem you suitable – or not – for a first date with their child. Who needs Tinder?
But back to the burger! Of all the burgers, the spicy shepherd’s pie and moist pitta parcel combination was the best. It’s not a reason to visit Chengdu (far far from it), but if you find yourself there at least you have my burger advice. And my sympathy.
You’ll find these burgers at various stands in the city, or on Jinli Street.