Subscribe to free Email Newsletter

  Info>In Depth

Big city attracts expats with small-town feel

2013-01-09 10:41:35




Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan province, is home to many famous dishes, including mapo tofu and kung pao chicken.

Barnett said dining in New York is a serious ritual.

"But in Chengdu, people care more about food and taste," he said.

Barnett has worked in the food industry for more than 20 years.

He said diners in New York City are serious about matters such as the way a plate comes out, when it comes out and how it's served. People in Chengdu, in contrast, care only about one thing ― taste.

Matuszak agreed.

"If chefs can't provide authentic, twice-cooked spicy pork (a traditional Sichuan cuisine), nobody will visit their restaurants in Chengdu," he said in the local dialect.

Chengdu residents tend to be fond of restaurants that are hidden in alleys and street corners and only have room for a few tables.

"If the chefs (at these places) aren't in a good mood, they'll just close their restaurants for a day or two," he said. "They're serious about their food."

Apart from Sichuan cuisine, people can find relaxation in the teahouses dotting nearly every corner of the city. In many ways, the teahouse is to Chengdu what the bar is to London and the cafe is to Paris.

Both Barnett and Matuszak go to teahouses in the city ― often to meet friends. They said a cup of tea can cost them anything from less than a dollar to more than 10 dollars, depending on where they buy it.

"Everyone here has a teacup," said Matuszak, who is married to a Chengdu woman and has two sons. "People drink tea while they're working."

Matuszak first arrived in Chengdu in 2002 and left and returned several times over the following years. In 2011, he spent an entire year in Shanghai in search of better pay. In the end, though, he decided to settle in Chengdu, where he began his Chinese journey.

"Chengdu has a little bit of everything," he said. "It has the culture of Beijing, but isn't as big. It has the business and jobs that Shanghai has, but isn't as stressful as Shanghai."

1 2 3