I finally opened the snack package created by the Chengdu Food Tours guys in Sichuan and delivered to my door in Beijing for rmb128. Tried it at Pi Bar last Saturday night with three Chinese friends–two bar owners and one chef–who gave overall approval for both the flavor and authenticity of these treats sourced from key Chengdu Foor Tour vendors. Let’s check them out, item by item:
Bayberry-infused baijiu. One friend has a strong aversion to baijiu but gave a thumb up to this bayberry (yangmei) version. It’s sweet but not cloying–you get a sense of the alcohol but the fruit and rock sugar lead the way. And it also paired nicely with the snacks, especially the spicier ones. Yangmei is a versatile and delicious fruit.
(Here’s one description: “If you’ve never tried the juicy goodness of yangmei, imagine a mouthwatering, sweet-tart mix of pomegranate, strawberry and cranberry flavors, packed together into a cherry-sized sphere with a curiously bumpy surface and, when fully ripe, the deep burgundy color of a fine red wine. It’s a little piece of ecstasy that will dance across your taste buds and probably dribble onto the table or your summer clothes. But you won’t even care about the mess because it tastes so amazing.)
If you want to try home infusions, check out this general recipe from Jordan Porter of Chengdu Food Tours.
Sichuan sausage & cured pork. Speaking of spicy, this sausage delivered a fiery kick that went well with a yangmei baijiu counter-punch. Break a sweat! The cured pork was milder and a nice counterpart to that sausage. Flavorful, chewy, greasy–this was my favorite dish overall.
“Strange flavor” peanuts. These were a hit. Peanuts coated with a mix of sugar and spices like cumin, Sichuan peppercorns, chilies, black pepper, etc. That mix might seem ‘strange’ to some but it’s quite addictive. Simply a nice complex crunchy drinking snack.
“Tofu cheese” & sesame crackers. The tofu wasn’t nearly as stinky or soft as I expected, and instead quite grainy. First thought: spread it on something.
I tried it on a sesame cracker and the meat slices, inspiring looks of disbelief from my fellow tasters and comments such actions were “weird”. (Frankly, it tasted pretty good with that sausage. The sweetness of the sesame crackers didn’t work as well for me.)
I was also told this kind of tofu does best as a side dish with noodles. (Maybe, but also try it with the sausage.)
As for the sesame crackers. these got a thumbs up for authenticity, although they were fragile–crumbly–and in terms of flavor seemed a better match for tea. Maybe that’s a good way to finish a meal like this? Sesame crackers and tea?
Sichuan peppercorn cookies. We forgot to open these! The idea was to give some out as more people arrived but by then I was taste-testing wonton soup–Pi Bar just added this, with Avotaco providing the ingredients–and cocktails. Next time.
Overall, this pack offers lots of flavor, authenticity and fun–it’s enjoyable to open and sample with friends. And Chengdu Food tours delivers outside the province. Add them on WeChat to order or get more info.
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