by Blake Bergen Photography


Stir-Fried Bamboo Shoots | 炒竹笋


Bamboo is a truly magical plant: sturdy, sustainable, and edible. These bamboo shoots were sauteed right up in the middle of the Yibin Bamboo Forest, so you know it’s fresh!

Yibin Bamboo Sea, Sichuan, China | 中国四川宜宾竹海

Hot and Sour Cabbage |酸辣白菜


People who say cabbage is boring never had cabbage in China. Soaks up alllllll the flavor!

Xining, Qinghai, China | 中国青海西宁

Pita Bread Soaked in Lamb Soup | 羊肉泡馍


Buttery lamb with rice noodles and tiny pieces of torn up pita bread. They recommend tearing them into tiny pieces as it soaks up the soup better.

Xi’An, Shaanxi, China | 中国陕西西安

Skewers in Chili Oil | 串串香


So many options so little stomach space. I try not to think about how many times they reuse the same skewers…

Luzhou, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州

Dumplings | 饺子


Nearly every culture has some sort of dumplings, but no one can rival those of the Chinese. Double pepper pork dumplings are unbeatable and very eatable. These babies were cooked up at my absolute favorite dumpling place in an alley off North Kehua Road in Chengdu.

Chengdu, Sichuan, China | 中国四川成都

Peking Duck | 北京烤鸭


Use your chopsticks pick up a thin wrap from the steamer and place it in your hand or on your plate. Then add your duck (with super crispy skin!), shredded scallions, and sauce (you can either use a spoon or lightly graze your duck into the sauce). When your proportions are to your liking, wrap up your duck taco and go to town. Is your mouth watering? Because mine surely is!

Luzhou, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州

Tea | 茶


In Sichuan, every time of year is time for tea. But fall/beginning of winter is the perfect time to sit out at a teahouse and warm your hands and belly with a nice cup of tea. Just keep refilling with hot water and let the leaves rest at the bottom.

Luzhou, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州

Stir-Fried Green Beans | 干煸四季豆


Stir-fried green beans are a staple of Sichuanese cuisine. They have a delightful texture somewhere between crispy and soft (but not soggy), they’re salty and lightly spicy. If you haven’t tried them yet, get on it!

Luzhou, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州

Cheese Coffee | 芝士咖啡


Imagine a layer of spreadable cheese, like Laughing Cow, on top of coffee. I was hoping it was better than what I expected, but I’ll be honest… I thought it was disgusting. The texture and flavor of the cheese does not mix well with coffee. Truly disturbing. Hard pass. Would not recommend.

Luzhou, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州


Century Eggs | 皮蛋


Coated in clay and ash, these preserved eggs are clear on the inside with black yolks. Sounds appetizing, right?

Yaoba Ancient Town, Luzhou, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州尧坝古镇

Local Brown Sugar | 土红糖


This type of brown sugar (actually called “red sugar” in Chinese) is made from sugarcane juice and has a strong molassesy flavor and a bit of a sandy texture. It’s an acquired taste, but at least it’s relatively healthy compared to some other types of sugar!

Yaoba Ancient Town, Luzhou, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州尧坝古镇

Shredded Pork in Sweet Bean Sauce | 京酱肉丝


This dish is usually very sweet and tangy, but not in an off-putting away. I imagine this dish would be pretty popular in the West but I’ve never seen it outside of China!

Luzhou, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州

Dry Pulled Noodles | 干拉面


I always prefer “dry” noodles (meaning not in a soup), and these dry pulled noodles did not disappoint.

Zhangye, Gansu, China | 中国甘肃张掖

Lamb Dumplings | 羊肉饺子


Hearty meat and carbs with a cumin soup and low-rolling spicy dipping sauce – the perfect cold weather pick-me-up.

Zhangye, Gansu, China | 中国甘肃张掖

Vegetables | 蔬菜


All around Southwestern China it’s easy to find fresh vegetables for super cheap. It’s not recommended to eat them raw, but there are so many incredible ways to fry ’em up.

Zunyi, Guizhou, China | 中国贵州遵义

Fresh Pepper Rabbit | 鲜椒兔


Roaring heat envelops juicy rabbit, cut by the freshness of sliced ginger and cilantro sprigs. It’s as flavorful as it is colorful. Just watch out for the bones!

Luzhou, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州

Short Rib Dry Pot | 排骨干锅


Melt off the bone short ribs swimming in oil, roasted garlic, dried chillies, scallions, and topped with cilantros. Oh and there are some veggies somewhere in there too! It’s meant to share but I could totally eat the whole thing.

Luzhou, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州

Beef Noodles | 牛肉面


This was my very first venture into noodles in Luzhou, which set off a two year love affair. You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten noodles in Sichuan, and I fully believe Luzhou is home to the best of the best. Beef, cilantro, and noodles in a spicy broth. What could go wrong?

Luzhou, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州

Mapo Tofu | 麻婆豆腐


Mapo tofu is a signature Sichuanese dish, and this one has a gorgeous coating of Sichuan peppercorn powder. Can you taste the spicy and numbing heat wafting from this dish?

Chengdu, Sichuan, China | 中国四川成都

Bayberries | 杨梅


Bayberries come in different types – sour and sweet. The sour ones are usually consumed dried, while the sweet ones (pictured above) are often eaten fresh or as juice. In China, some people like to add them to baijiu (a white spirit) to add some flavor and color. Tbh, nothing can make baijiu taste better though…

Zunyi, Guizhou, China | 中国贵州遵义

Yuxiang Eggplant | 鱼香茄子


Yuxiang translates as “fish fragrance” but smells nothing like fish and is not usually used with fish dishes. I have never understood the name, but I 100% understand the appeal. It’s salty, sweet, tangy, spicy, and savory. It has something for everyone, and eggplant soaks it up so well. Even people that don’t like eggplant typically can’t resist the draw of yuxiang eggplant!

Ya’An, Sichuan, China | 中国四川雅安

Biang Biang Noodles | Biang Biang 面


The character for “biang” is so complicated – 43 strokes in simplified – that it doesn’t exist in computer fonts! It is supposed to tell the story of Shaanxi, the province of its origin, and the sound “biang” is meant to represent one of two things (people debate this): the sound you make while eating it or the sound the chef makes while making it (slapping against the table). Biang biang noodles are shaped like a belt both in thickness and width, and you can put a variety of different toppings on it. I recommend the spiciest ones!

This is the simplified character for biang:


Xi’An, Shaanxi, China | 中国陕西西安

Chili Pepper Powder | 辣椒面


When you live in Sichuan and visit Shaanxi, it’s shocking how not spicy their chili pepper powder is. Excellent smoky flavor, but barely spicy.

Xi’An, Shaanxi, China | 中国陕西西安

Jujubes | 红枣


Jujubes have been cultivated for over 4000 years and originate in China. They’re used in traditional Chinese medicine to cure or prevent a whole host of things from cancer to cognitive decline, but they’re pretty dang delish in some hot water with goji berries and dried lemon slices.

Luzhou, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州

Steamed Buns | 馒头


People like to believe that bread isn’t popular in China, but steamed buns sure are! They’re particularly good with Lao Gan Ma, a black bean chili sauce.

Leshan, Sichuan, China | 中国四川乐山

Braised Pork with Preserved & Dried Veggies Pastry | 梅干菜扣肉饼


Preserved veggies and braised pork is one of my favorite dishes, so put that smoky and sweet glory inside a thing pastry and I’m 100% sold. Great snack for when you’re on the road, and especially for pre- or post-beers!

Wanzhou, Chongqing, China | 中国重庆万州

Longan | 龙眼


Longan, or “dragon eye,” is a beloved speciality of my former Peace Corps site, Luzhou. They taste very similar to lychee, but are much smaller. You can find them all over Asia – either fresh or dried!

Luzhou, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州

Earl Grey Tea Soy Milk |格雷伯爵茶豆浆


Doujiang, a type of soy milk with a nuttier flavor than what we’re used to in the West, is a popular breakfast staple in China. This version was infused with earl grey tea, and was absolutely delightful.

Chengdu, Sichuan, China | 中国四川成都


Douhua Noodles | 豆花面


Pickled veggies, mint, scallions, peanuts, chili oil, and soft tofu over thick noodles. Served with soy milk.

Chishui, Guizhou, China | 中国贵州赤水

Cauliflower Dry Pot | 干锅花菜


Cauliflower dry pot is sweet, salty, savory, crunchy, soft, spicy, and healthy. Well, mostly healthy. Who cares if there’s bacon in it, it’s cauliflower so it has to be healthy, right?

Chengdu, Sichuan, China | 中国四川成都

Burning Wontons | 燃抄手


Burning noodles are a speciality of Yibin, and one of my favorites. But did you know you can also get them as wontons??

Yibin, Sichuan, China | 中国四川宜宾

Bean Hot Pot | 豆米火锅


Made with pinto beans, bean hot pot is perfect for cold weather.

Kaili, Guizhou, China | 中国贵州凯里

Douhua |豆花


Douhua is a soft and unstructured tofu “pudding” found all over Asia. In Sichuan, it’s served spicy and numbing (mala) and with all sorts of yummy toppings.

Leshan, Sichuan, China | 中国四川乐山

Fried Rice Noodles / Chow Fun | 炒河粉


There’s a million ways to call these noodles in English – rice noodles, chow fun, he fen, chao fen, hor fun, ho fun, char kway teow. I just call them delicious AF.

Shenzhen, Guangdong, China | 中国广东深圳

Sichuan BBQ | 烧烤


Smokey, spicy, cuminy street meats and veggies on skewers will have you begging for more. And then begging for a bathroom.

Chengdu, Sichuan, China | 中国四川成都

Figs | 无花果


Figs are like basically the best fruit.

Chengdu, Sichuan, China | 中国四川成都

Tea | 茶


This type of tea cup is called a “gaiwan” – which consists of a teacup, saucer, and a lid. Designed in the Ming Dynasty, you can use the lid to hold back the tea leaves. Perfect for green tea like this one!

Chengdu, Sichuan, China | 中国四川成都

Chongqing Small Noodles |重庆小面


Chongqing small noodles are a thin slightly chewy noodle swimming in spicy and numbing oil. Typically served with scallions and bok choy, but you can add all sorts of toppings!


Look at that glorious red.


The fixin’s that make up Chongqing small noodles.

Chongqing, China | 中国重庆

Braised Pork with Preserved Vegetables | 梅菜扣肉


Pork as smooth as butter with the fullness of soy sauce, served over preserved veggies. Particularly enjoyable on a cold winter day!

Chengdu, Sichuan, China | 中国四川成都

Sunflower Seeds | 瓜子


Sunflower seeds in China are like potato chips or popcorn in America – ubiquitous, beloved, and in so many different flavors. Camp out at a teahouse with a never ending bowl of sunflower seeds and you’re good for an afternoon of zen.

Zhangye, Gansu, China | 中国甘肃张掖

Lamb Skewers | 羊肉串



A young man roasts lamb skewers, a popular street food in Chinese Muslim regions, on the Muslim Food Street in Xi’An. A must for meat lovers!

Xi’An, Shaanxi, China | 中国陕西西安

Hot and Sour Fish | 酸汤鱼


A speciality of Kaili and its surrounding areas, this spicy and sour fish hot pot is a must-try. The fish perfectly soaks up the wonderfully bizarre medley of flavors in the broth. Best with some rice wine on the side!

Zhenyuan, Guizhou, China | 中国贵州镇远

Lotus Root | 藕


Lotus root is crunchy, healthy, and beautiful when sliced.

Chengdu, Sichuan, China | 中国四川成都

Sichuan Peppercorns (Green) | 青花椒


Green Sichuan peppercorns smell extra pungent and have a more tinny and floral flavor.

Chongqing, China | 中国重庆

Bayberry | 杨梅


One berry I always wanted to try but never went for it… Next time!

Leishan, Guizhou, China | 中国贵州雷山

Dried Tofu | 豆腐干


Dried tofu with spicy shredded carrots. It’s topped off with sauce once you’re ready for it, so it doesn’t get soggy.

Leshan, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州

Fried eggs with tomato | 番茄炒蛋


A popular dish amongst other foreigners in Sichuan, this was maybe my least favorite specialty. Sweet and salty, but lacking in the characteristic Sichuan spice!

Fushun, Sichuan, China | 中国四川富顺

Yogurt | 老酸奶


Drinkable yogurt is rather popular around China. Street vendors sell it in glass bottles, which you give back after you enjoy some creamy goodness, but in the supermarkets you can just get cartons!

Xi’An, Shaanxi, China | 中国陕西西安


Sweet Dough Balls | 糖果子


Oily dough balls covered in sugar and sesame seeds. Sooo healthy!

Chengdu, Sichuan, China | 中国四川成都

Sugar Roasted Chestnuts | 糖炒板栗


On a cold Sichuan day, the smoke wafting from a black charred wok carrying the scent of sugar roasted chestnuts immediately warms the soul.

Chengdu, Sichuan, China | 中国四川成都

Shredded Pork and Mushrooms | 蘑菇肉丝


A super simple dish that quickly became one of my go-to lunches. Tender shredded pork with juicy mushrooms!

Luzhou, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州

Wolf’s Tooth Potatoes | 狼牙土豆


Wolf’s tooth potatoes are essentially crinkle fries with a bunch of other goodies stir-fried up and laced with chili pepper. You can find this street food all over Chengdu, but this more custom version was outside of a university in Leshan.

Leshan, Sichuan, China | 中国四川乐山

Cold Tossed Zhe’ergen | 凉拌侧耳根/折耳根


Zhe’ergen. This simple word can illicit deep groans of despair from those who never acquired the taste. The roots and leaf of the “fish mint” plant are popular across Asia, and are commonly served in Sichuan and Guizhou provinces in Southwestern China. I am not a huge fan of the pungent flavor of the root, but I can handle the leafy part to a degree… when it is drenched in vinegar, soy sauce, and chili flakes. The root tastes a bit like fish fermented in bleach and grass.

Yaoba, Sichuan, China | 中国四川尧坝

Zunyi Lamb Rice Noodles | 遵义羊肉粉


On a cold day, nothing beats a steaming bowl of noodle soup. In Zunyi, you can lose yourself in a bowl of savory rice noodles with lamb, coriander, Sichuan peppercorn, burnt chili powder (the char gives it a great flavor and is not particularly spicy), and scallions. Not only is it delicious but it’s 粉 (fěn) to eat!

Zunyi, Guizhou, China | 中国贵州遵义

Shaomai/Shumai | 烧麦


Shaomai/shumai, a type of dumpling where the dough is bunched at the top, comes from China’s Inner Mongolia province, but is more associated globally with Cantonese dim sum. While also found in different forms in Japan, Vietnam, Philippines, and Indonesia, the lesser known Sichuanese version deserves some recognition! It’s a bit doughier and served with chili oil, of course.

Leshan, Sichuan, China | 中国四川乐山

Century Egg | 皮蛋


The idea of eating preserved eggs might make some of us uncomfortable, but if you can get past the idea, they’re quite delicious. Especially in soy sauce and fresh chilies.

Luzhou, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州

Luzhou Burning Noodles | 泸州燃面


There are many different stories about how burning noodles got their name – some say it’s because there’s so much oil you can light it on fire, others say it’s so spicy it makes your mouth feel like it’s burning, still others say it’s because it’s served with a sprinkling of fresh chili on top that looks like a fire. While these noodles are most famous for their Yibin origins, this version is the Luzhou variety, which in true Luzhou fashion is much more likely to burn your mouth with spice! These are hands down my favorite noodles in all of China.

Luzhou, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州

Dipping Sauce | 蘸碟


While walking down an alley in a small village near Luzhou, these beautiful dips caught my eye. What can be more delicious than broadbean chili sauce in canola oil with MSG sprinkles?

Luzhou, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州

Goat Liver and Niangpi | 羊肝和酿皮


The goat liver, on the left, basically tastes like pâté with some chili powder sprinkled on top. Niangpi, on the right, is made of gluten separated from flour and mixed with vinegar, mustard, chili, peanuts, and other goodies. It’s a very … interesting … texture.

Xining, Qinghai, China | 中国青海西宁

Maocai | 冒菜


Sichuan has a plethora of ways to cook and serve things in spicy and numbing oil. To make maocai, you blanche the ingredients in boiling water, cooking everything before adding it to a gut-destroying bowl of spicy oil.

Luzhou, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州

Shaanxi Dried Chillies | 陕西干辣椒


Dried chillies are common all around Chinese markets. Going from Sichuan to Shaanxi, I was surprised by how tame the spice in this variety was – a much more delicate flavor.

Xi’An, Shaanxi, China | 中国陕西西安

Brokenhearted Grass Jelly Noodles | 伤心凉粉


How can noodles be brokenhearted? It’s not the noodles that are ripe for heartbreak… it’s you! One bite of these super spicy grass jelly noodles and your taste buds will be left in despair, sobbing into a quart of ice cream while watching The Notebook, and wondering how you can abandon them to such misery.

Chengdu, Sichuan, China | 中国四川成都

Lizhuang Boiled Pork | 李庄白肉


Lizhuang Boiled Pork is famous throughout Sichuan, with each city pairing it with a slightly different dipping sauce (usually soy sauce based with various spices and herbs). When visiting the ancient town of Lizhuang, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity for this thinly sliced, tender pork dish in its most original recipe!

Lizhuang, Yibin, Sichuan, China | 中国四川宜宾李庄

Rice | 米


Buckets of rice – the cleanest and most sanitary way to purchase your rice!

Chongqing, China | 中国重庆

Wonton Noodles | 云吞面


Wontons, wavy egg noodles, and soup. I prefer the non-soup version but I can’t complain. In Shenzhen, you can find pockets of small restaurants serving food from all over China in little restaurant neighborhoods called “Eat Streets” or 食街. I stumbled into this noodle shop, passing over the plethora of Sichuan restaurants, since I was living in Sichuan at the time and wanted a more local fare. At the time I wasn’t used to non-spicy Chinese food and was rather surprised to enjoy something without any chillies!

Shenzhen, China | 中国深圳

Lamb Skewers | 羊肉串


Sparking coals make lamb skewers better, everyone knows that.

Xining, Qinghai, China | 中国青海西宁

Spicy Chicken Noodles | 辣鸡面


We always hear the stories about making mistakes in Mandarin thanks to tricky tones. Ordering spicy chicken noodles was my constant tonal nightmare. You see, làjī miàn means “spicy chicken noodles,” while lājī miàn would mean “trash noodles.” I may or may not have been laughed a few times… But hey, at least I got my spicy chicken noodles!

Luzhou, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州

Xi’An Steamed Buns | 西安灌汤包


Xi’An’s Muslim Street is full of flavors and scents. People flock here for the snacks. One inescapable delight is the steamed bun – a classic in China but with a thinner surface in the Xi’An iteration. Beef and lamb are musts!

Xi’An, Shaanxi, China | 中国陕西西安

Sliced Noodle Soup | 面片汤


Savory soupy sliced noodles with veggies and beef.

Zhangye, Gansu, China | 中国甘肃张掖


Same as above but more tomato based broth.

Matisi, Zhangye, Gansu, China | 中国甘肃张掖马蹄寺

Fried Noodle Slices | 炒面片


Fried noodle slices with onion, pepper, beef, and chili sauce. Served with a cumin-y soup.

Xining, Qinghai, China | 中国青海西宁

Chongqing Hot Pot | 重庆火锅


You can’t spent more than a minute in Chongqing without smelling hot pot. Chongqing hot pot is the heart and soul of this southwestern municipality. Gathering around a boiling bowl of spicy oil and broth with friends and family for a several hour feast is an unforgettable experience. Hot pot was started by poor fishers and farmers who couldn’t afford quality cuts of meat, so they made this fragrant concoction to mask the smell and flavor of innards and undesirable fish, and to make veggies bearable! Beer is always a must. Drinking games, unavoidable.

Chongqing, China | 中国重庆

Siwawa | 丝娃娃


Siwawa is a treat found in Guiyang, China that resembles make your own tacos!

Guiyang, Guizhou, China | 中国贵州贵阳

Grass Beef | 牛瘪

Cow stomach cooked with the digested grass still inside, and then cut up and fried with ginger, garlic, dill, celery, and spice! This is a Guizhou speciality, and is incredibly delicious. Apparently it’s good for digestion.

Leishan, Guizhou, China | 中国贵州雷山

Bo Bo Chicken | 钵钵鸡

Bo Bo Chicken is a popular item from Leshan, Sichuan. At restaurants that serve it, this bowl of cold spicy and numbing oil is already on the table and filled with skewers. You just sit down, and go to town! Quail eggs, chicken heart, bamboo root, chicken feet, sausage, lotus root, and broccoli are among the staples.

Leshan, Sichuan, China | 中国四川乐山

Sichuan Style Big Plate Chicken | 川味大盘鸡

Numbing and spicy chicken chunks and lotus root with scallion and sesame garnish.

Luzhou, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州

Douhua | 豆花

Soft tofu, or douhua, is popular around Asia in all sorts of different flavors. In China’s Sichuan province, it’s typically served in large chunks like this with spicy and savory dipping sauces unique to each city/town. It definitely has more of a nutty flare than regular tofu.

Yaoba Ancient Town, Sichuan, China | 中国四川尧坝古镇

Kung Pao Duck | 宫保鸭丁

What the duck?! Yeah! Kung Pao is actually a thing in China. It’s not quite as sweet as the American kind, and has a bit of Sichuan peppercorn.

Luzhou, Sichuan, China | 中国四川泸州

Da Da Noodles | 哒哒面

“Da da” noodles are silky smooth and topped with whatever you want. The “da da” label comes from the sound made as the noodles smack against the table during the metamorphosis process from dough to noodley perfection. They are a speciality of Ya’An, and are typically served with large chunks of meat (although I prefer ground pork).

Ya’An, Sichuan, China | 中国四川雅安

Steamed Pork in Glutinous Rice | 粉蒸肉

Succulent pork that melts in your mouth, covered in a spicy glutinous rice and sprinkled with Sichuan peppercorn powder and cilantro.

Wanzhou, Chongqing, China | 中国重庆万州

White Tree Fungus | 白木耳


White tree fungus (bai mu er). I promise it’s more delicious than it sounds!


Luzhou, China

Fruit Wine | 果酒


Fruit wine, served in a large stone bowl and a bamboo ladle. Enjoyed with traditional bowl cups.

Luzhou, China

Green Tea | 绿茶


What’s the tea now tell me what’s the tea.

Chengdu, China

Baozi | 包子


Baozi are steamed buns (these had pork), that are perfect for breakfast. Even better for hangovers 😉

Chengdu, China

Lamb Skewers | 羊肉串

China_2015_010679 China_2015_010686

$0.50 per skewer. A small price to pay for charcoal grilled spicy lamb induced happiness.

Luzhou, Sichuan, China

Mung Beans | 绿豆


Mung is kinda fun to say. Gotta see if it’s fun to eat too…

Chengdu, Sichuan, China

Bowls o’ Blood | 猪血


No this is not for Halloween! This is at my local market. Bowls of congealed blood. It actually tastes pretty good when cooked – like tofu!

Luzhou, Sichuan, China

Caramel Toffee Macchiato


I usually avoid sugary drinks, but this just sounded too dang good!

Luzhou, Sichuan, China

Shredded Pork with Tofu | 豆腐干肉丝


Shredded pork with smoky tofu, scallions, red pepper, and Sichuan peppercorn. Served with rice and some buckwheat tea.

Luzhou, Sichuan, China

Ginger | 生姜


Fresh ginger – a staple of the Chinese diet.

Luzhou, Sichuan, China

Thick Noodle Soup with Soy Beans | 铺盖面


A delicious thick noodle soup with soy beans and a dollop of spice in Luzhou, Sichuan, China.

Bai Rou (White Pork) | 白肉


A speciality in Luzhou, 白肉 (white pork), is thinly sliced and served with a magnificent sweet and spicy sauce for dipping.

Luzhou, China

Peanut Noodles


You’d have to be nuts not to love these cold and sweet noodles!

Chengdu, China