07 August 2017

Sichuan Street Food Pilgrimage - Leshan

After Chengdu, Leshan is our second stop on our food nerd edumucational tour of Sichuan, the extra yummy bit of China.

It's the smaller to midsize cities we love most in China: more vibe, more mom'n'pop restos, less western tourists like us. Leshan has a lazy small town feel, it's a village by Chinese standards with it's  population of 3.5 million folks, plus a roving tornado of domestic tourists mostly here for the impressive giant Buddha.

The most addictive part of travel is that rush of excitement you get when you first arrive somewhere new that floats your boat, Leshan is one of those places.

Inner Leshan is tree-lined and buzzy, the locals seem to be a happy and laid-back lot, it's one of those towns you could have a nice little life in. The frenetic buzz of inner Leshan keeps going until about 8 or 9pm when the whole town seems to go bed.

The river is lined with a path, trees and tea shops. On the other side of the road is lined with those domestic tourist restaurants that never quite made it, and shops with warm drinks, they're not into refrigeration around here.

Sitting riverside slowly sipping tea, watching the tourists boats circling the giant Buddha on the other side of the river, rich people drop their dogs off at the grooming saloon across the road.

We knew accidental Chinese hipsters were a thing (fellow Newtownians may recognise this fella), but Leshan goes one better with an accidental hipster restaurant.

Leshan's food scene gets an extra buzz from the tourists, though most of them have probably bussed out after seeing the big Buddha. There is quite a bit of street food, good street food too.

This little strips of carts outside a demolition site is a beaut.

Hot nuts.

Architecturally cut rice bubble cakes, these are LCMSs for grownups, and us. An amazing amount of care and precision goes into these, which explains the constant queues.

There's a strip of sidewalk stalls doing the same thing, we pick the one with the lovliest auntie. These folks were so nice we came back on our second night - not something we usually do when travelling, kudos indeedy.

We don't know the proper name for this style of dining - we call them stick restaurants. On your table there's a couple of big bowls with various meat and veggie skewars, marinating in a spicy or not-so-spicy sauce.

We are given two bowls to gouge.

Serving suggestion... It's kind of like oden, only spicy. It works wonders because the portions are small, it's a fun, slow and social way to eat. Pretty healthy too. It's great to see the youngsters out eating their veg instead of junk food, though there is plenty of that around the corner. The bill is calculated by counting the number of empty skewers on your table.

Beer is a measly 3% or so alcohol, which on other trips to China we haven't minded for health reasons, but on this trip we craved full strength beer. We soon began dangerous experimentations with Chinese liquour.

Our hostel was excellent, and very new, complete with Totoro lift. We feel kinda bad because we were among the first Westerners to stay there, and Shawn had come down with this evil, evil, evil flu that caused the kind of night sweats that soak the bed linen and make folks wonder what the hell those stinky foreigners do to their sheets. Sorry China.

Anyhoo, hostels in China are getting better and better, this joint is more like a boutique hotel with themed rooms and frills galore. Flashpacker joints are popping up everywhere as more and more kids are exploring their country backpacker style. to support mostly for the domestic market.

Bitty dumplings.

There's a great little resto for breakfast a couple doors down from our hostel.

Chinese skeddi for breakfast, plain simple pork mince and noodles makes for a happy tum.

A simple, clean, dumpling soup is perfect for man-flu.

This great-auntie must have been pushing 100, yet she was out all day every day hanging around chatting to any and everybody outside the pharmacy, feeling safe in the protection of her vicious attack hound.

Great crap on stick stall next to our hostel, the best crap on sticks stall in town.

Mmmm, crap on sticks.

Up the hill from our hostel we feel like we're in ye olde hutong China - old folks and street vendors and more old folks.

This guy's winning smile lured us to this street stall.

Rice cakes.

We jump on a bus which gives us a great extended tour of Leshan's burbs before winding up near the Great Buddha.

The Great Buddha is impressive, very big. The queue to walk down to bottom is massive, a two hour wait was the estimate we were given.

Professional assistants help you get that special Buddha in your hand illusion photo.

We take the back exit. It sure is purdy here.

At the park exit there's a string of tourist restaurants, we hit one promising sweet skin duck, a famed local speciality. We sit down to order only to discover there is no sweet skin duck, so we duck off out of there.

We walk a couple of kilometres along the river away from the tourist park and hotels and find a small roadside market...

...complete with a duck vendor.

Was is the famed sweet skin duck?  We don't know by oh my, oh my, look at it.

We had no idea if it was sweet skin duck, it tasted like really, really good Chinese roast duck, super moist and and super ducky, like Shawn.

We nibbled our duck walking across the bridge back to town, along with kids walking home in that dreamy after school ecstasy, one of those little happy travel moments.

Riverside park. This side of the river is dotted with ye old themed joints and hotels.

We cross the bridge and follow some signs for a tea shop, an ancient uncle and auntie point us to this boat, a floating tea house, we're so in.

We kill a couple of very happy, chilled hours sipping tea while folks young and old hang out, play cards, gossip or just plain zoob out. This Chinese tea house culture is something special.

We nab a table on the deck and order tea by randomly pointing at the menu, the result is always good.

From our tea house boat we can see another great looking tea house under the bridge by the river. Next time.

It's a fine stroll along the river - loads of life and trees, happy people...

...and loads of street stalls. If we come back, and we plan to because we were sick as dogs on this trip and would like to do it all again, we'd walk along this riverfront as far as it goes, it looked like you could walk a long way from town to town. Maybe not, but we'd like to find out.

Across the street from the river walk is a few kilometres of shopping heaven\hell\meh. There's the odd shopping mall that we are drawn to like flies. We rarely go to the mall at home in Sydney for the fun of it, but when travelling we are drawn to malls for reasons we choose not to ponder.

Back to the little street market area near our hostel. We're sure we ate one of these fried sandwiches but dang if we can remember what it tasted like, other than awesome.

We return to the stick restaurant from the night before - this time we go for their other option - pick out a pile of meat'n'veg from the spread at the front...

...put your pickings into this this basket thingy...

...and the nice (and we mean nice) lady cooks your basket pickin's in her pot of secret broth.

Voila - a hot and healthy soup.

It may not look sexy but it tastes it.

As we leave Leshan we sneak in a final meal near the bus station.

Tops resto.

After some interpretative dance we end up with a noodle soup each.

A dam fine one too.

A final, final snack of plain bread from a street vendor with a smear of strawberry jam from Alison's emergency kit. If only we were in the right bus station, but that's another story.

We love China.


  1. Hi there, I read your other post about Chengdu as well. I gotta say, you guys are so brave, eating from randoms on the side of the road!!

    I went to Chengdu and Leshan this year too and I also loved it. You guys ate Sichaun classics right? They're sorely missing from your blog :P

    1. Yes funny you mention sorely missed dishes - we just ate what we stumbled upon and simply did not see some dishes that we expected to see everywhere eg mapo tofu.

  2. Heading to Chengdu + Chongqing in November...these blog posts are getting me pumped!


Thanks for your comment joy - please keep your musings happy - if you want to complain about a restaurant please do it on a restaurant review site (or your own blog) - we're all about celebrating cultural diversity and the great eats that come along with it :-)

Our ethics: We pay for all our own meals and travel (though sometimes Mum shouts us).