Never one to hide his preferences and opinions, Anthony Bourdain said several times that had a favorite part of China: Sichuan, the province known for insanely hot food.
It’s the spicy, sensualist heartland of all the things I love about China… food that can burn you down to a charred, smoking little stump.Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain visited Sichuan twice, while filming the season 2 special opener (“Asia Special” of No Reservations, and again filming season 8 (episode 3) of Parts Unknown. These were his only two visits to this Chinese province, though he spends time in several other parts of the country throughout his television career.
If you’re in search of some of the world’s hottest food and planning a trip to Chengdu or elsewhere in the Sichuan province, this is the right place. Below you’ll find a list of all the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Sichuan, during both of the episodes/shows he filmed there. Bring some antacid and prepare for the heat – let’s dig into all the flavor Sichuan has to offer.
Season 2 Asia Special of No Reservations
Anthony Bourdain’s first trip to Sichuan focuses on the province’s largest city of Chengdu and was filmed as part of the China portion of his “Asia Special,” along with Beijing. As such, he doesn’t visit as many places as during his second trip where the entire episode is devoted to this region.
Dave’s Oasis Expat Bar
Tony starts his visit to Chengdu at Dave’s Oasis Expat Bar – perhaps not the kind of place he would have visited later in his career, but a good introduction to a new destination. Here he has a Chinese beer and leaves his mark in the form of graffiti and a sketch on the wall.
People’s Park Teahouse
Anthony Bourdain’s next stop is People’s Park Teahouse, a teahouse located in a park (as you might have guessed from the name). Here he enjoys tea and an ear cleaning (a weirdly specific experience you can have in this park), and people-watching for other odd habits and happenings.
Huang Chen Lao Ma
For his last spot during his first trip to Sichuan, Anthony Bourdain visits Huang Chen Lao Ma with a few local folks from Chengdu. Here Tony enjoys a different kind of “fondue” – more to his liking than the cheese-dipping Swiss stereotype he wasn’t the biggest fan of (due to his morbid fear of all things Swiss!).
Instead, he has Sichuan Hot Pot, a boiling pot of hot pepper-infused broth with Sichuan chiles and black flower peppers into which you can dip all kinds of protein and veggies. As one might expect, he has some unusual choices like tripe, kidneys, and quail eggs, as well as more traditional meats like chicken and sliced beef as well as noodles. As you might expect, the food is hot – and Bourdain loves it.
Parts Unknown (2016)
Anthony Bourdain’s return to “China’s breadbasket” is one of the best episodes in Parts Unknown, in my opinion. This is in part because he’s joined by Chef Eric Ripert, and their banter makes for great television. Tony takes Eric to some of the spots he’s been to before, as well as new ones serving dishes meant to melt both their faces off. Here are the spots this dynamic duo visits.
Dan Dan Tian Shui Mian
Bourdain and Ripert start out at Dan Dan Tian Shui Mian, known for its “old traditional Chengdu dishes.” They start out with a series of different noodle dishes, including a few spicy ones that introduce Eric to the intense heat and weird neurological effect of Sichuan peppers.
Tian Tian Fan Dian
Next the pair head to Tian Tian Fan Dian for a more intense Sichuan dining experience. This restaurant offers several new dishes to both chefs – but also some of Tony’s favorites. These include pickled chicken feet, La zi ji (spicy chicken), Mapo tofu also called “granny tofu” (ground beef, tofu with a sauce of fiery chili oil, bean paste, garlic shoots, Sichuan peppercorn, and MSG), and Qing hua jiao yu (green peppercorn fish).
In particular, Tony loves the Mapo tofu, so this is a must-try dish if you’re visiting Sichuan.
Liang Lukou Hot Pot
On his first visit, Bourdain tries one other essential dish: Sichuan hot pot. He’s adamant that Ripert needs to try it too, so they head to Liang Lukou Hot Pot with some locals.
For their hot pot experience, they choose a number of proteins and veggies to add to the volcanic broth, including fish, tripe, vegetables, tofu, seaweed, and quail eggs. As you might expect, they drink plenty of Baijiu and beer to help keep the heat under control.
Unnamed Street Noodle Stall
Next, Tony and Eric split up. Bourdain heads to an unnamed street noodle stall to cure his hangover with a bowl of noodles and beer.
Meanwhile, Ripert goes out to do a bit of sightseeing – and gets mistaken for his friend. He decides to roll with it, eating different street food and snapping selfies with locals out and about.
Yu Zhi Lan
If you’re looking for a nice dining experience and a chance to try “elevated Sichuanese food,” be sure to grab a meal at Yu Zhi Lan, a two-Michelin-star restaurant in Chengdu. The two chefs are joined by a local ex-pat who’s also an expert on Sichuanese food, and they enjoy an incredible tasting menu that at times focuses on the “strange flavor” part of the cuisine (described as a combination of sweet, sour, salty, spicy, numbing, and nutty.)
It starts with a series of cold dishes with ingredients like lily buds and rose petals, tea tree mushrooms, braised beef shanks with chili oil, and prawns with handmade noodles. This is followed by Golden Thread Noodles – a soup of chicken and pork broth with chopped meat, thinly cut noodles, and duck egg yolks. They also try sea cucumber with sour and hot dressing which is a particularly unique dish.
People’s Park Teahouse
Next, Tony subjects Ripert to a unique experience he had on his first trip: the pair visit People’s Park Teahouse for a cup and for Eric to get his ears cleaned. This is clearly a great moment where their friendship is about playfully torturing each other, as Ripert does by making Tony hike during their trip to the French Alps together.
Shui Jing Fang Distillery
Lastly, the pair of chefs visit a Baijiu distillery to learn about the spirit, followed by a “business dinner” with plenty of drinking said spirit. While we don’t know specifically what they eat, it’s a series of shared, banquet-style dishes – likely good though nowhere near the level of heat or flavor that some other dishes they enjoyed together on their trip.
Have any other questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Sichuan and Chengdu – both with Chef Eric Ripert and on his own? Let me know in the comments below!