To my mind there are few Sichuanese pasta dishes as delicious as dandan mian . But Chengdu boasts many other noodle specialties well worth keeping your eye out for. There's these comforting shouzhuang mian, for instance. And on a warm day (or even a cold one) it's hard to beat a well-tossed liang mian.
And then there's feichang fen. Unlike the aforementioned dishes this one may not be for everyone. The wonderfully elastic noodles, made of sweet potato flour, are utterly accessible. But the main ingredient, pigs' large intestines, might just give some pause.
Not far from Chengdu's Xin Nan bus station is a shop selling guokui -- both the griddled version, like the greasy-good ones in this post, and the 'tandoor'-baked pita-like version eaten stuffed with your choice of filling (to be honest, here they're not as tasty as the ones we swooned over in this post). In an adjacent room, it's all about feichang fen.
The sweet potato noodles for this dish are made steps from the shop's bubbling pot of innards broth. It's a quick and simple procedure: thickish batter is pushed through a sieve directly into boiling water and after a few minutes the noodles are spooled onto a pair of chopsticks, then transferred to cool water to stop the cooking. There they remain (top photo) until made into a dish.
Proving once again that one can do almost anything while smoking
Like most any Chinese noodle dish feichang fen is made-to-taste fare: spicy or not, with or without bean sprouts or intestine pieces (or with an extra portion of innards). Also available here: xin fei tang, or heart and lung soup.)
For our order the noodle master placed chopped scallions and Chinese celery, la jiao you ('sandy' chili oil), garlic, vinegar, a dash of soy sauce and MSG in bowl.
He placed bean sprouts together with noodles in a long-handled strainer and submerged that into the guts broth, leaving it there just long enough for the sprouts to wilt and the noodles, which are already fully cooked, to heat up
He then dumped these on top of the condiments, topped it all up with a little broth, and added pieces of intestine.
Dave, long an innards lover, truly enjoyed this dish. I eat intestine and other bits and bobs on occasion, but to my palate the broth was over-the-top funky to the point I couldn't bear more than a few sips. (Dave was happy to finish our shared bowl all by his own self.)
The seasoning was perfect, however -- we asked for 'extra spicy' and very vinegar-y and the noodle master delivered on both fronts (thumbs up always to Asian food vendors who take our caucasian selves seriously when we say we want it spicy) -- and the noodles divine. More substantial than rice noodles, not as heavy as wheat noodles, pleasingly elastic, utterly slurpable, sweet potato noodles may just be the ultimate pasta.
An absolute Do Not Miss for any pasta and guts loving traveler headed to Chengdu.
Jin Tang Jiu Long Guo Kui (look for red characters on a white sign), corner of Xin Nan Lu and Nan Tai Lu, Chengdu. Morning to evening.