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Touring Around Chengdu

Aired May 30, 2013 - 03:30:00   ET



JEK TAN, CHEF, CHEN MA PO TOFU: You have to be very humble. The humble come from my mouth, my palate. You have to go out and try and then we will keep our senses open. Listen, see, smell and taste.


The layer of oil, the (inaudible) and the tofu with the Sichuan (ph) pepper right in the middle, a layer of oil (inaudible) but that's the taste of it. That is (inaudible). So (inaudible) to them it's like what (inaudible) with the Sichuan (ph) pepper, you have the numb, you have spicy. You run together (inaudible) the spicy (inaudible). It's how the country people love it.

All you need to do is to figure on the top, put the oil and then oil to the bottom. So you see, this is very dry. But before you eat it in the whole mouth, you don't know how spicy it is. Better take a nibble. You know? (Inaudible) the spice and bite a few off.

(Inaudible) now it really comes. Wow, it's spicy. Burning, man.


JEK: (Inaudible). Lesson number and the spiciness will (inaudible) your palate. The best is have a sip of tea and wash it down.

Coming from Singapore, yes, we have a lot of cuisine. But when you come to Chengdu, right, Chengdu (inaudible) in Singapore. What I'm eating just secondary, you know, it's not the authentic. It's not (inaudible) have the culture, even the air you breathe (inaudible). It's the culture, it's the history. But here you have to eat like a local because the spiciness are (inaudible) for them, local meals.

These are the little fellows that makes the numbness.

This numbness creates a tanginess, a (inaudible) feeling, a chili when you eat it, it's like a Japanese flower, hitting the ground. Whack! You know, it hit you, wow, it's painful, you know. And that's you get over it whereby Sichuan (ph) pepper is like a nunchuk (inaudible). It hits you and the moment it hits you, you think it's over. The next one come in.

You know, the slingshot coming to hit you again.

JEK: Yes, man, the Chinese (inaudible) we sing, (inaudible) everything is rotten (ph), man. Manchu (ph).

OK. These are the skewers. They're quite (inaudible). You have to dip it in the hot solution, which is a chili base or a plain base or broth base. So you cook it inside. It is like a hot pot but with a skewer.

That's why it's called a fragrant thing. It's called Chuan Chuan. Chuan Chuan means skewers. Chuan Chuan Xiang is very Chengdunese. You don't find it anywhere else except in Chengdu language or Chengdu culture. It's a spirit. I can choose whatever I want to eat. I can choose whatever kind of broth I want to be in and the way I want to cook it.

So you can still be your own chef. What I like about here is that coming here in Chengdu, you can --


JEK: -- but they have not changed (inaudible). I would say yes, they will not change. They will still have the basic love of their whole life like that. And why should they change? It's a melting pot. Why should they change? No, I don't think they will change.

OK, I put some tofu onto the chili broth. That's for you.


JEK: One more tomato for you, too, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do I get the chili?

JEK: Welcome to Chengdu, no?



YU KEWEI, SINGER, LOTUS PALACE (from captions): The song I'm about to sing is called "Returning Home." I want to dedicate this song to all people who want to return home.

We're now at a very, very famous street in Chengdu called Jinli Street. This street already has a very, very long history. So on this street, I've actually been coming here since I was young; it's flourished. It's been renovated once and now it has a lot of big and small sized businesses that sell a lot of stuff.

There's stuff to eat, play and food. Candy maker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've spun it already.

YU (from captions): I'm giving it a try now. I got a bird.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn't turn it. Give it a spin now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you want the bird?

YU: No, no; I want the dragon.

YU (from captions): Can you make me a dragon?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dragons are bigger. Add 30 cents.

YU: I want the dragon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want the dragon?

YU: Yes, I want a dragon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) the dragon (inaudible).

YU (from captions): Thank you.

It's very lifelike.

He's a real person.

So what character are you playing?

Zhuang Yuan. He's Zhuang Yuan.

Spicy rabbit's head. This is Sichuan people's local delicacy. They take the rabbit's head and create a snack with many different flavors. This line is very long. Three drums, there's three beats. This is called Three Drums. It's because when he's beating the dough it sounds three times, boom, boom, boom.

So it's fun and tasty.


YU (from captions): Four dollars.

Thank you.

I have a feeling it's really tasty. Do you want to try?

Too big.

It's really sweet, so sweet.

We're now at the home of Chengdu's famous scenic spots, the Wu Hou Shrine. Now in this place you can come see a Wu Hou Shrine built during the Tang Dynasty.

However, what we see now are a lot of the buildings are actually remnants of the Qing Dynasty. Also here they placed a lot of bricks, sculptures and statues of China's heroes. The most famous one is Zhuge Liang and Liu Bei.

This is Liu Bei and this is the Liu Bei's Shrine. His grave is behind the shrine in order to follow a practice in the ancient times, which is if there is a grave of his, then they need to build him a shrine there as well. This ruler was very honorable and kind and he was also very compassionate toward his followers. He was a noble ruler, so his shrine has never been looted in 1,800 years.

This place is really welcoming, whether it's culture, people or the relaxing environment. Also, my entire family lives here. I feel extremely blessed to grow up here.

LILIAN WU, PHOTOGRAPHER: We're in the Chengdu Panda Research Center.

Right here in Chengdu in Sichuan (ph), this is the place got the most pandas in this world.

And they're cute. So maoxiong (ph) literally means little cat.

For the giant (ph) pandas, they're called xiongmao (ph), mean big cat.

They're just so cute. You can see they're just sleeping and eating every day, 20 hours a day. I think that's a kind of ideal life (inaudible) people do. Everybody wants (inaudible) but (inaudible) OK. Only panda (inaudible) and this lifestyle.

The only difference between Chengdu people and panda, maybe they don't play mahjong.

Right outside the Little Bar is a great place for the underground music fans and (inaudible). And tonight we're going to have a really famous band from Beijing.

This is really loud punk and really crazy and people love it at nighttime. Let's go.


WU: There is a famous Chinese old saying that (inaudible) means if you're young, don't come here because if you come here you enjoy your life too much to work hard.

(Inaudible) this monastery, and this is Ching (ph) Monastery. As you can see, there's still traditional house preserved around this neighborhood. And there are two restaurants. You can see this called Changmao (ph). (Inaudible). It's my favorite one, too.

Chengdu people are very famous (inaudible) like big food lovers, big food fans. (Inaudible) the city is pretty laid back. They don't really change their lifestyle for (inaudible). And the (inaudible), you know, just do their business and when they're free, they play mahjong.

This is black bean. And this is beef black bean. And we use this for food, cooking, noodles, dumpling. But you can see that it looks different, but they're already hot, just different flavors.

This food actually shows the temper of the Sichuan people. Sichuan women are famous for their short tempers, yes, like the one -- yes, spicy tempers, yes, exactly.

But this chili and numbs pepper, it's from -- it's called -- (inaudible) -- wobogon (ph).


I don't need water after having spicy food; otherwise I wouldn't call myself Chengdunese. Sometimes people are famous for having spicy food, you know. They don't -- you don't surrender to the chili, you know.

LI BOQING, STORYTELLER (from captions): Welcome our friends from afar to Chengdu. I'd like to take you to Du Fu Cottage to experience the history and culture of Chengdu. In case you have any doubts, come on in with me and have a look.

Everybody in China knows that Du Fu is a great poet of the Tang Dynasty. One of his poems was about a shabby straw house struggling in the autumn wind. He wished that all the poor people could have proper shelters.

There's an old saying that goes, "I'd rather have no meat in my meals than live in a place without bamboo." Since ancient times, intellectuals love to bring bamboo into the themes of their poems, songs and prose, using bamboo's character to represent human virtues.

The reason why people like Du Fu is because he has communicated his broad thoughts and feelings toward society. My principle is to tell the stories of the common people with the language by the common people in order to communicate with the common people.

The leisure of Chengdu, look at all these tables for fun. It's a very leisurely city. This is another Sichuan specialty. The good thing about this tea set in three pieces is first of all, the (inaudible) can't burn you.

Secondly, you can (inaudible) the tea leaves like this and it brings the fragrance out and it helps to reduce the heat. There are many traditional etiquette related to this, too. For example, if you sweep the tea toward the outside, it's a gesture that you're sending the guest away.

Nowadays, the function of tea houses are simply playing mahjong and card games. In the past however, the tea house was a platform for information exchange and the exchange of feelings.

Let me tell you, Shu Feng Ya Yun shows a special part of our Sichuan culture. It is a classic treasure of our traditional culture. If you have any doubts, please follow me and take a look.