About an hour-and-a-half by car outside of Chengdu proper is a museum dedicated to the history, nuances, and ingredients of one of China’s major culinary traditions, Sichuan food. As a side note, it is not easy to get to, and most cab drivers from the city are either unwilling to go that far or don’t know where it is.
Once we got there, after the driver getting lost and a fee renegotiation, we wandered around the empty grounds. We were the only visitors, but we didn’t really mind. The room or two of historical exhibits yielded some pretty interesting collections of old-school utensils and stories:
“The pickle water, of course.”
This poster reminded me that there’s still much yet to be eaten.
But the real stars of the show were yet to come. First, the stunning array of massage standing pots of fermenting chili bean sauce (豆瓣酱, or doubanjiang), which must be churned daily for a year, with exposure to the sun and open air. Each row of the vats represents a different stage in that yearlong process. Pi County is unique (the Chinese name is Pixian) as the most famous producer of chili bean sauce, so we were smack dab in the middle of where the magic happens.
A peek inside: Continue reading