★★★ 家常面 (Home Style Noodles) - Chengdu
During my trips Asia I like to try the very "local" ramen places just to see what the average folks eat. In China this can become a hard task since I really have no clue what an "average" restaurant is like. In Chendgu alone, I've had ramen that's prices range from $0.40 cents to $12.00 a bowl; I was walking around the neighborhood near the Sheraton in Chengdu during when I found this noodle place called "Home Style Noodles", just the place I was looking for. I ordered their first item on the menu, a 0.60 cent 素椒炸酱面 (sujiao zhajiang mian) or spicy zha-jian noodles.
The Sauce - was an innocent looking brown sauce, but after the first few bites the spiciness quickly overwhelmed me. There was only a little red chili oil in the sauce but it was more potent than anything that I've had in Chengdu so far. The mouth numbing 花椒粉 Sichuan peppers also started to kick in early. 1/4 through the noodles it got so spicy that I figured I couldn't finish this bowl of noodles, but as my mouth started numbing up the spiciness become less and less noticeable, it was only then that I could finally taste the flavor of the sauce. The simple pork sauce became quite addictive after the numbingly spicy experience, I actually finished the whole bowl. As I walked away from the store my mouth was so numb it felt like I just visited a dentist.
The Noodles - were simple medium thin straight noodles cooked soft. If these noodles were cooked any firmer or chewier I would've given up after the third bite because of the spiciness.
The Toppings - were some cooked ground pork. No seasoning.
Overall - a great bowl of noodles. Finally something as spicy as I imagined in Sichuan! I wonder if all the other restaurants I visited so far are more catered to tourist and hence have the spiciness toned down. The store decor is very minimalistic so it's ont for everyone, but give this place a try if you want to give authentic spicy Sichuan noodles a try. Eat at your own risk.
This place is across the street from the front entrance of Sheraton Hotel in Chengdu.