On the Virtues of a Potato Head

Home in Chengdu |  release time:October 19th,2017

  Potato is a versatible indulgence. Mashed, slow braised, roasted to a delicate mix of crunch and flavor in a stone pot. The omnipresent fries, Kartoffelpuffer and And ijvietstamppot. Those who sweat and labor evince a shared taste for the vegetable's down-to-earth flexibility. A no-fuss reward after a day’s work.


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  I'm "Potato Head". Where I'm from – Qinghai Province – the locals are also referred to as "potato heads", named after their predilection for potatoes. 


  You need something sturdy for the winter, something to not only fill you up but convert into calories to withstand the winter storms. Now, let me introduce you to all the potato joints you should visit in Chengdu. 


  Wild Potato


  Their potatoes are, well, cute. Wild Potatoes has a huge selection and gives credence to its affection for potatoes with a litany of nicknames: pianpian (slices), tuotuo (chunks), langlang (wavy slices), and jiaojiao (wedges). Lang lang gives you the option of adding sausages and mixed veggies. Wild Potatoes has five main flavors: the store special soul-snatcher flavor, sweet & sour, Sichuan spicy, dry chilli, and sour and spicy. RMB 7 for a small order, RMB 9 for large.


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  I splurged a bit and ordered sweet and sour tuotuo, spicypianpian, and dry chili langlang to pacify my growling stomach. The sweet and sour tuotuo is definitely worth a try! First of all, it's not just any sweet and sour flavor. I thought it might taste like the potato version of sweet and sour ribs or sweet and sour fish, but actually the condiment mix is a pretty complex concoction with a pronounced vinegar flavor and includes beet root, chili powder, chopped spring onion, coriander, zheer gen (houttuyniacordata), and celery. Potato is diced and fried into golden cubes that are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, then covered in those mouth-watering condiments. You can't help yourself but nod as you eat.


  As for numbing and spicy pianpian and dry chili langlang...not that I am picky but they are just about as ordinary as those served by street vendors outside any school.


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  Ma San Yang Yu Pian


  Seeing the northwestern-style store and menu felt like homecoming. I leapt in joy when I found this place online. They sell potato slices, milk-egg in fermented rice, tian pei, and wide rice noodles, all favorites of mine. I belted for the counter and ordered, in total, five potato slices skewers, one deep fried sausage, one deep fried sweet rice cake, one bowl of milky fermented rice, and an order of tian pei. A feast, in other words.


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  The food was anticlimactic. What I ate was competent. The potatoes themselves were excellent. At times, they brought to mind the days when the younger me would skulk past my mother’s gaze to gorge on fried things. Their potato slices and fried sausage tasted as if they were lifted from my memory. Their fermented rice and sweet cereal, however, were rather lacking in flavor. The flavors distinctive to those two dishes were missing, and their tian pei is made from wheat, not the traditionally used barley.


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  Wu Wei Fan Dian


  This is a fly restaurant fixture near Sichuan University. Don’t cavil at the hygiene, and this is probably offset anyway by their cheap food. Their stir-fried shredded potatoes live up to the hye– cut to extremely thin slices and fried to a golden crisp. I could demolish a huge plate of these on my own.


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