Located opposite Chengdu Provincial Museum is a homely restaurant that serves a very different style of Sichuan food, something that is not spicy.
We wanted to go to another popular restaurant around there. But there was a queue of 27 tables before our turn. That’s the problem with tourist cities in China – too many tourist going to the same places. Even here at SanShengXiang, there’s 4 more tables before us. Well, at this is a more reasonable wait.
Although they serve the “popular” Sichuan cuisine that we are familiar with, like mapo tofu, spicy boiled fish or beef, etc, SanShengXIang offers other less familiar Sichuan dishes.
巧拌秋葵 okra in vinegar and soy
Unlike the ones served in Shanghai, this one is very refreshing and not so spicy. It is more garlicky and has a sharper taste.
卤味拼盘 mixed braised meats and beancurd
Perfectly braised with five spice and Sichuan peppercorns, the mixed plate consists of pig tongue, goose gizzard and duck liver. The only non-meat is the beancurd.
虫草花炒蛋 cordyceps flower omelette
Cordyceps flower has the same benefits of cordyceps, and it is luxurious to be put as an ingredient of an omelette.
干锅糯猪手 pig trotter with cauliflower claypot
Loved the pig trotter that has been stewed before being stir fry into the cauliflower. The ones we get elsewhere are usually quite chewy.
歌乐山辣子鸡 Geleshan spicy chicken
Geleshan spicy chicken is the big brother of Chongqing style Sichuan cuisine, but it is a relative new dish. Around the year 1999, a roadside eating place in Chongqing Geleshan launched a spicy chicken dish using only Sichuan spices. This dish is especially particular about the ingredients. The main ingredients are free-range chicken, Maowen 茂文 Dahongpao peppers 大红袍 and Sichuan peppercorns. Excessive in spices, enticing appetite, spicy and fragrant, hot off the wok – it’s a test of the chef’s skill, especially the grasp of the cooking time.
The best spicy chickens must be bright in colour, and the peppercorns and chilli cannot be blackened by the cooking. The chicken must be crispy and dry, with strong aroma of the peppercorn and chilli and not of the oil. The Geleshan spicy chicken requires a large serving dish, as there will be more peppercorns and dried chilli than chicken. We have to pick and choose among the red and bright peppers.
I am surprised by the authenticity of the spicy chicken in this shop. However, I am still not a fan of it, not because its too spicy but it’s too difficult to find the chicken bits.
There are two main types of hotpot restaurants in Chengdu. The first type is called 麻辣烫 mala tang, literally meaning “blanching in mala soup”.You pick out as many skewers of meat or vegetables as you would like and then cook them in the pot yourself. Normally there will be a bowl of sesame oil, oyster sauce, and diced garlic to dip the food in to deaden the spiciness Diners cook their food right at the table in steaming Ma La Tang, a savoury broth blended with the spices found in abundance in Sichuan.
And then, there’s 冒菜 Maocai.
Maocai originated in Chengdu, and is slightly different from Malatang and mala hotpot. The name maocai is derived from the verb mao (冒) which in Sichuan dialect refers to the blanching of the ingredients in a colander in hot water by moving the colander up and down repeatedly. This pre-cooking of the ingredients before immersion in the stock sets it apart from most types of hot pot. There are three main styles:
- Hotpot (火锅) type: the basic form, you put the ingredients into the hotpot soup and scoop out when cook thoroughly. You don’t drink the soup.
- Marinade (麻辣烫) type: It is a kind that very similar to marinade which is same as the usual braising and stewing of meat or poultry. Putting the ingredients into the hot pot soup and scoop out when cook thoroughly. Main characteristics are oily and spicy, and you can drink a little brine soup. The representatives are Zhang Jinji Maocai 张锦集冒菜, Sangu Maocai 三顾冒菜 and so on.
- Clear soup (清汤/高汤) type: Clear soup type is improved on the basic of the hotpot type and marinade type Maocai. Soup stock is made of pig bone, cattle bone, chicken, sometimes Chinese herbal medicine to kick the flavours up a notch. Then fresh ingredients are cooked in the soup base so as to ensure the resulting pot contains the original flavours and nutrition.
Pig stomach and chicken casserole with wild mushrooms 猪肚鸡汤锅+野生菌拼盘
Casserole is the piece de resistance of the shop, according to the lovely lady boss. You can choose the base of the casserole, but it usually starts with chicken or pork ribs. They also have the more exotic duck, pigeon, turtle or black chicken choices.
We ordered a pig stomach and chicken casserole. The casserole is also loaded with a whole chicken and pig stomach with creamy, white stock from pig bones and chicken bones.
And then we added a plate of mixed mushrooms that included porcini, matsutake, morels, expensive mushrooms and fungi if you eat them elsewhere. Sichuan is famous for these mushrooms, so we get a plate full of these wild mushrooms for only 88 yuan.
The result was a very flavourful casserole, filled with umami from the mushrooms and sweetness and taste from the chicken and pig stock. Each type of mushroom has their distinct taste.
Besides a very delicious casserole, they also serve very interesting drinks. Firstly, it was 40˚C outside, so we asked for something cold. We were introduced to this bamboo drink from Chengdu. Not too sweet, slight fragrance of bamboo.
But what we really find interesting were the big glass vats of moonshine placed behind the counters. We ordered their plum and mulberry wines. They tasted like fruity version of baijiu, more precisely 二锅头.
The service staff are all very helpful and patient despite the large crowd and non-stop turnover of tables. The food has been outstanding, so it would be a wonderful choice if you are visiting the museum and looking for a place to eat.
SanShengXiang Casserole 三生香汤锅馆
4 Qinghua Rd. (at Mudian Alley), Chengdu, Sichuan, China
Tel : +86 28 8732 3480
Date Visited : Aug 2019