I’ve been warned about street vendors and food stalls – they’re not as hygienic. I respect that, but I also think that food stalls make some of the tastiest food ever.
In Chengdu, I went to JinLi “alley” next to Wuhou temple, which was filled with food vendors and trinket shops. Oh, the food! The food, my friends – let me tell you about the food. I had spicy tofu kabobs, and lotus and rice. I tried this broth fried dough, and sesame buns. It cost me about 30 yuan for all of it (roughly 5USD) And beyond what I ate, there were so many options!
There were whole birds butterflied on skewers – the sign said they were quail. There were all sorts of meats on skewers, and all the innards as well – livers and intestines chief among them. There were what appeared to be rabbit heads, whole skulls cooked and ready to go. I saw at least a dozen kinds of noodles. Fried rice, rice steamed in bamboo, rice cooked with lotus, pineapples cored and stuffed with rice and fruit. I saw fried squid, whole fish roasted on skewers, and next to them were fruit spun with sugar. And soups – soups abound, along with teas. Fruit is popular as desert – fresh and dried. The smells collide and mix with the smell of people – it’s enticing and slightly revolting at the same time.
It was hard to get to any of it, though – the alleyway was packed with people, all pushing towards the vendors and away from them. The crowd was trying to go in all directions simultaneously, like a school of very confused fish. Additionally, the other side of the alley is set with tables and benches, so people can eat their wares if they wish. And not speaking Chinese is not such a burden here, you can point at what you want, hold up a number of fingers, and pay the amount on the sign.
How much? = duō shăo qián
It’s tricky – part of me knows that this food is not as sanitary as from a restaurant. But I also feel like it’s important to take some risks now and then. And I’ve been blessed with a pretty good constitution. So I enjoy my kabobs, and if you ever go to China, I recommend you do so as well.
Besides, if it tastes funky, you don’t have to eat it. On that particular alley, I passed a brand new Starbucks, where the little tarts and brownies were set up behind a big window. It struck me as a silly venture – I mean, with the smells of the street food, who’d want a sanitary brownie? Sanitary brownie – that doesn’t even sound plausible.