Chongqing China – Best Places to Eat and Dishes to Try
Chongqing cuisine is an offshoot of Sichuan cuisine and is noted for the distinctive spicy flavors, it is spicier and stronger tasting than the food found in Sichuan.
Food That is Unique to Chongqing
There are a number of dishes in Chongqing that are unique to that city; here are some of the most popular. Chongqing Hot Pot is the city’s most famous dish and the one that every visitor must try at least once. Chongqing is the home of the hot pot which is now copied all across China. You have a choice of spicy or non spicy, although most restaurants have a split pot where you can have both. You place your food into the spicy broth and wait for it to cook; it is a great social meal. On my first visit to Chongqing I was invited to a hot pot restaurant with a group of Chinese friends. Not knowing how spicy it was I suffered, and had to use lots of local beer to ease the burning sensation.
Chongqing noodles, there are lots of noodle dishes in the city, you should try Xiao Mian (little noodles). It is a noodle dish with chili oil, spices and you can add from a wide selection of ingredients.
Chongqing is located along the Yangtze River where it is joined by the Jialing River so there are lots of fish dishes available. One of the favorite local dishes is Jiangtuan Fish, is English it is known as the Bighead Carp. It is cooked by either being steamed or baked.
Quanshui Chicken or Spring Water Chicken is cooked using the natural spring water from the regions Southern Mountain.
Qianzhang is skimmed soy bean cream. Several steps need to bd taken to create this dish including soaking the beans before they are ground, strained then boiled then strained several times through gauze until it becomes a white cream color. The paste is then left to become hard before it is cut into slices and seasoned with garlic, chili oil and sesame oil. It can also be served with bacon.
Cheap Restaurants and Street Food in Chongqing
The city centre of Chongqing has a big choice when it comes to cheap restaurants and street food where you can easily buy a satisfying meal for about CNY10 or less. Lots of the food available in Chongqing is different from other Chinese cities as here they do tend to cater to the individual and offer single sized portions.
Noodle shops can be found anywhere in the city and you can choose from spicy to plain flavour, fry fried noodles to those boiled in a soup. They are very affordable beginning at CNY4 and depending on the ingredients a serving will cost up to CNY10 or 12. Soybean cream slices cost from CNY3 and dumplings from CNY4 per portion.
There are a few areas that are now becoming famous as food streets, Bayi Street was the original one and it has now been joined by Nanbin Road and Jiefangbei. Local dishes in addition to those listed above include snacks such as Xiangshan Honey Cake, a sweet tasting combination of floury honey cake that is soft and very sweet. Jiuyuan Steamed Buns have salty fillings of ham or bamboo shoots, or you can try sweet tasting fillings such as walnut seeds, Chinese honey dates or rosy sugar.
To visit the food streets of Jiefangbei or Bayi Street you can take several buses to the stop called Jiefangbei and Bayi Street is just a short walk or an easier option is to take the subway. Exit at Xiaoshizi station on lines 1 and 6, or the Jiaochangkou station on line 1. Another option is Linjiangmen station on line 2.
The Best Restaurants in Chongqing for Local Food
Hot pot restaurants can be found everywhere in Chongqing and are a popular way of social eating for locals and visitors alike. The Hai Yi Xuan hot pot restaurant in the Harbour Plaza is one of the city’s most luxurious dining experiences. The hot pot is divided into nine sections; there are over 200 selections to choose from on the extensive menu in addition to a separate buffet. Expect to pay over CNY100 per person for this dining experience.
Another famous hot pot restaurant in Chongqing is the Cygnet Hot-Pot Palace, in addition to the décor and wonderful food you be will entertained with a different show every night. They have singers, dancers, and local folk shows. It can be found on the 6th floor of the New Chongqing Square in the Yuzhong district.
In addition to hot pot there are also some authentic Sichuan restaurants (Chongqing was part of Sichuan province until 1997), the Tao Ran Ju Flavor Restaurant has spicy Sichuan dishes as well as some less fiery Cantonese food available. They have received several national awards for the innovative dishes that include Spicy Winkles, Fish with sour chili, Crispy Rabbit Meat, Sticky Rice Sparerib and Chili Chicken with Taro. Each dish costs from CNY30.
Along the side of the Yangtze River you will find the Wai Po Qiao or Grandma’s Bridge Restaurant on Nan Bin Road. The first floor is entirely a hot pot restaurant while upstairs serves Sichuan food. From the second floor, if you are lucky enough to have a balcony view you can observe the activity on the busy river illuminated every evening.
Western or International Food in Chongqing
There are several restaurants in Chongqing that describe themselves as western but in reality they are selling western style food or what they think will pass as western style food. There are a number of Italian restaurants in the city and some actually Italian chefs, so these are always good for authentic western dining.
The Casablanca inside the Dekang Department Store in the city centre is a good western restaurant where a meal including a drink will cost from CNY50. Why Not is a Belgian restaurant in Shapingba, run by a couple from Belgium. They have a good menu and sell authentic Belgian style fries and mayonnaise at reasonable prices.
Close to the WEB English school in the Nanping Wanda Plaza in Nan’an you will find the Nova Venezia. It is a western restaurant with an Italian chef serving authentic Italian food including pasta and pizza. A pizza here will cost from CNY50.
Cafes and Coffee Houses in Chongqing
The Nenlu Tea House is located on the 10th floor of the Hong Ya Dong in Yuzhong district; it is a great place to relax, drink tea and catch up with everything that is happening in the world with their fast speed internet. There are some great views of the Yangtze River but the tea is a little expensive.
The Old Tree Coffee House can be found in two locations in Chongqing at Zhongshan Road in Beibei district and at Jintai Mansion on West Nanping Road. They are open daily from 10am until midnight.
Bars, Pubs and Drinking Venues in Chongqing
Chongqing has a growing number of bars suited to international visitors but most of them do not get the attention they deserve. Prices vary but local bottled beer costs from around CNY10, these will cost CNY3 in a restaurant so you can understand why most locals do not visit them. Some bars hire girls to tempt people in off the street and the bar will give a huge bill when you attempt to leave claiming it is the cost of the girl accompanying you.
The Marriott Sports Bar has several locations across the city and is the closest thing you will find to western beer but it is pricy, A pint of Guinness costs CNY58, although you can buy two for the price of one during happy hour. They have table football, darts and pool to remind you of pubs back home.
The Underground Arcade Entertainment Centre in Jiangbei, close to the Jiefangbei War Memorial has several bars and restaurants. There is also an outside beer garden close to here that serve reasonably priced drinks, has a great atmosphere and shows live football (soccer) from the English Premier League on big screens. A word of warning, do not eat the food here, it is overpriced and not western as claimed.
The Harp Irish Pub is located on the 9th floor of Hong Ya Dong close to the Carrefour supermarket. It is open from 11am until 4am and the place where most ex-pats go. It opened in 2010 has sports on TV, a selection of beers on tap, imported beers and a great selection of imports spirits such as Scotch whisky, vodka and gin. They also have great food and English speaking staff.