72 hours of eating in Chengdu

CHINA - With its diverse variety of food, when you're in Chengdu it's easy to be elegant in an English-style afternoon tea break, or enjoy a wide selection of Western-style cuisine. But the real gourmet lure comes from food stands and small restaurants scattered on the streets. The number-one rule: Join the crowd and trust their choices.

Some key words to get you around Chengdu's bustling food scenes:

Catholic Church Chicken Slices

The dish of chicken slices with chili sauce was first offered by a food stand located next to a Catholic church in Chongzhou, about 25 km west of downtown Chengdu. With its increasing popularity, the chicken dish is available around the city.

Dan Hong Gao, or Chengdu-styled Mini Pancake

Cooked in a tiny pan, the pancake is wrapped in dumpling shape after being stuffed with various fillings. The creative fillings, loved by the young, include cream with chili beef sauce, and chocolate jam with stir-fried potato shreds.

San Da Pao, or Three Cannonballs

When you order the dessert, the cook will snatch three glutinous rice balls and hit them one by one on a device making a loud noise, like explosions from a cannon. In the process, the balls are covered evenly with soybean powder. They are served hot with melted brown-sugar sauce.

Ma La Tang, or Spicy and Hot (bamboo skewers)

This is actually a simplified and cheaper version of hotpot. The raw materials are all prepared on tiny bamboo skewers. It's said that in Yulin area, you will find the best.

Leng Dan Bei, or Cold Dishes and Beer

An affordable feast for all kinds of cold dishes and salted and stewed meat specials, plus noodles, porridge and beer.

Little Tan's Tofu

Located in Xida Street in the western part of downtown, the restaurant sells numerous kinds of tofu snacks. You can't miss the iced tofu puddings with fermented glutinous rice sauce and medlar.

Bon appetit!