The distinct characteristic of Sichuan cuisine is the use of spicy chilies and peppercorns. Local dishes include Grandma Chen's Tofu (Mapo doufu),
Chengdu Hot pot, and Dan Dan Mien (literally meaning, "Noodles carried on a pole" (Dan Dan Noodles). All three dishes are spicy. Mapo Doufu and Dan Dan Mien contain Sichuan peppers to give them
additional flavor. An article by the Los Angeles Times (2006) called Chengdu "China's party city" for its carefree lifestyle. Chengdu outnumbers Shanghai in the number of tea houses and bars despite
having less than half the population.
Sichuanese cuisine features careful pairings of boldness and subtlety in dishes, snacks, banquets, and hotpot. A characteristic adage goes: 'one dish, one style; one hundred dishes, one hundred flavors; flexible use of hot chilis and delicate flavors.' Of thousands of dishes, every one has a story behind it.
The local snacks in Chengdu are known for creative ingredients, skilled preparation, wide variety, and cheap prices. Tastes range from sweet and spicy to sour and hot in a range of cooking techniques including frying, stewing, baking, steaming and boiling. Some of the more common snacks found across town include noodles, wontons, dumplings, pastries, tangyuan (sweet rice balls), drinks, salads, and soups.
With over a thousand years of history, Chinese tea culture is perhaps best exemplified by the bamboo chairs and wooden tables found in the hundreds of tea houses throughout Chengdu, with jasmine tea being served as the local staple. As early as the Western Han period, both tea trade and tea culture were very prosperous in Sichuan with Chengdu as the starting point of the Southern Silk Road.
Chengdu is an officially recognised UNESCO City of Gastronomy.
An old Chengdu saying goes, "Sunny days are rare, but teahouses are abundant". Teahouses have played diverse social roles in the history of Chengdu. Locals are
passionate about going to tea houses, not only for tea, snacks, and entertainment, but also for social gatherings and business meetings. Tea houses have also served as unofficial courthouses where
local people resolved conflicts under advisement of community leaders.
Traditional tea houses in Chengdu usually feature bamboo chairs and wooden tables and offer jasmine, long jing and biluochun tea.
Modern tea houses can be spotted on almost every city corner. The price for tea varies from 5 RMB to several hundred. Besides tea and snacks, almost all tea houses offer Majiang sets, tables, and sometimes separate majiang rooms. Most locals go to tea houses to play majiang with friends. Some luxury tea houses in Chengdu also offer live entertainment such as Sichuan opera shows.