Chengdu Food Tours offer intimate way to heart of the city
Since its inception in 2015, Chengdu Food Tours has guided dozens of groups through the side streets of the city
Canadian Jordan Porter moved to Chengdu in 2010 as an alternative to doing his masters degree in Chinese history.
That initial two-year jaunt became a journey that has now spanned seven years and given rise to his own company, Chengdu Food Tours, which uses Sichuan’s famous cuisine as a tool to teach visitors about the city.
Since the company’s inception in 2015, Chengdu Food Tours has guided dozens of groups through the side streets of the city, exploring wet markets, visiting small street stalls, and enjoying multicourse dinners in hard to find locales around the city.
Porter is passionate about showing visitors the special relationship Chengdu people have with their food sources, and how that relationship emerges in the form of nostalgic searches for old neighbourhoods and traditional settings.
“We started the company in order to show people what makes this city a special place,” Porter says.
“Food bypasses the barriers of traditional tourism and is the best way to get a candid insight into the city.”
Chengdu Food Tours eschews large groups for the intimate nature of smaller groups. That way the tours don’t infringe upon a restaurant or stall, and also don’t attract attention and distract from the true goal of the tour: experiencing authentic Sichuan cuisine.
“We don’t do groups with more than eight people,” Porter says.
“We try and keep it personal and more inconspicuous, we go to small mom and pop places, to wet markets and small stalls. With smaller groups it is often a more relaxed and comfortable interaction.”
One of the interesting trends of the Sichuan food scene is the recent upsurge in nostalgia restaurants. An interesting example of this trend is Sichuan barbecue, or chuanchuan, restaurants designed to look like they are outdoors, the way those restaurants used to look before development tore down much of the old city. Another interesting trend is the new interest locals have for different flavours from around the world.
“When I moved to Chengdu, there were not a lot of international restaurants, but there are more and more coming into the city now,” Porter says. “One of the most popular things is something called Thai hotpot, which is basically a super spicy tom yam soup, eaten hot-pot style. It’s a familiar package, with different flavours.”