On the last day of our Chengdu trip, we had a late start to the day. I took advantage of the free time to visit the morning market. My guide Zhu kindly provided the address and forewarned me that the taxi fare from my hotel to Yu Lin market shouldn’t cost more than 15 RMB (RM7.50).
And thus I was up by 4am, finished a blogpost (one has to be disciplined even on a holiday) and ambled out to the front road of the hotel for a cab. I realized after 5 days here that it’s difficult to get around Chengdu or Shanghai (this is my personal opinion after my Shanghai trip earlier this year) if you do not know Mandarin. No wonder I don’t see many backpackers/foreign lone travelers around. It is definitely more advisable to stick to tours with an English speaking guide if you do not know Mandarin.
Even getting a taxi was difficult. I clutched my paper on which my guide Zhu has written in Mandarin the name of the market tightly in my hand. Still, I had to seek the help of the hotel staff to flag a cab for me and to explain to the driver where I wanted to go. Once I was in the cab I thought my worries were over til he started asking me questions that insinuate that there might be trouble.
His expression and hand gestures seemed to communicate that he didn’t know exactly where the market is. I was shocked but I didn’t how to reply so I kept pointing to my paper. He seem to gesture that we have reached, and even stopped his taxi and asked me to get down. I looked around and didn’t see anyone nor a bustling wet market so I refused to budge.
Below: Empty streets and shops are still closed. I’m not getting down here!
I pointed at my paper once again and sat back on my seat. He grunted, then started to round the block again. He stopped soon after and gestured to a building. I looked around and saw some people walking out with bags of fresh vegetables and decided that this should be it. I handed over 15 RMB (he didn’t use a meter) and came down from the cab. I looked around, and followed towards the direction of where the uncles and aunties were heading to on foot and bicycle.
Soon I saw stalls on the sidewalk and motorcycles peddling fresh goods. I walked on, hoping that this is not just it. I’m looking for a REAL, big scale market, not some stalls on the side of the road!
And then I spied a 2 storey building. The smell, the wet floor around me and the din says “wet market” through and through. I grinned and quicken my pace.
On the outer parameter shops like these does a roaring business selling edible/cooked ingredients/food. There are mostly pau (steam buns) shops, followed by roasted meat, cooked meat, pancakes and soy bean drinks.
Rabbit meat is popular here. 🙂
Yes, these are all rabbits!
Chop chop chop! “A bird or 2 for you miss?”
Don’t fret if you don’t fancy these swift footed creatures, there are chicken available for the rabbits lovers (the type who likes their rabbits alive).
At one of the stalls I found these corn cakes.
Only 2 RMB (RM1) for 3. Fluffy, greasy as hell but tasted quite nice.
It is made, well, from corn freshly ground on premise.
The batter is poured into these moulds and then both steamed and pan-fried in oil. Once the batter sets the moulds are taken out and the cakes are left to fry for a bit more on the pan for crispy sides.
A bagful of corn cakes in hand, I strolled down the rest of the shops. The long queue for this shop caught my curiosity immediately.
Young and old all queuing for?
A quick peek revealed a tiny but orderly “open kitchen’ within and a variety of almost 4-5 types of pau on sale. Seeing that this is a local market and having a queue of locals aunties and uncles somewhat testifies that this is worth the wait. And thus I joined the queue! 😉
The buns are cheap; the plain ones going for 1 RMB and meat ones for 1.5 to 2 RMB.
Size-wise it is as big as our buns here in KL but with more substantial filling.
Unfortunately the meat one turned out a bit too salty while the vegetable one was a plain with some sprinkle of greens.
I strolled on, peeping into every shop and was tempted into buying almost anything edible on sight. Crispy rolls, oily pancakes, more steamed buns; heck this is what the locals shop and eat, if I want a taste of the local cuisine it can’t get any closer to authenticity as this right? Might as well try everything!
For this stall, choose how much you want and they will cut these “sheets” of pancake for you.
I don’t speak mandarin so I can’t get the seller to tell me what are the differences of each but I’ll hazard a guess that these are basically flour pancakes with different ingredients.
This is a crispy version.
And this is the crispy rolls.
Most of these pancakes are really greasy though and hence I prefer the baked ones.
Problem is, there’s so many of these confectioneries and snacks and I have only 1 stomach!
I have no idea what are these; and not being able to speak Mandarin sucks sometimes.
Uh, ok, ALL THE TIME.
Fermented food are a big part of the Sichuan diet. This shop offers all manner of preserved bamboo, vegetables, roots, herbs and nuts.
Or at least they looked like bamboos, vegetables, roots and nuts to me. In actual fact these could be anything. LOL.
But I know breads and buns when I see them! And it took a lot of discipline to not buy everything in sight.
And fresh soya is perfect to wash it all down.
After breakfast I was ready to head inside. The Yulin market is housed in a large two storey building and offers both good quality produce and a good variety. It’s kept reasonably clean, everything looked fresh and I would assume the prices are very good seeing that it is for the locals.
The ground floor is for food (specifically on the outer parameter as shown earlier), fruits, dry goods, spices, seafood and while the upper floor is for fresh meat and vegetables.
The seafood section is very small, with only about 2-3 stalls at most. My guide Zhu later explained that it is due to the distance of Chengdu to the nearest coastal area, which is a few thousand kilometres away.
The sichuan peppers, chillies and spices are in abundance here.
Are you bored yet?
I don’t know about you, but I do love wet markets. I went past all the stalls and stared at everything in fascination and took pictures whenever I could. I was never bored at a wet market. Never! 🙂
Noodles are a big thing in China.
That applies to cooked ones too.
Fancy some pig snout with your noodles? 🙂
Or some regular pork belly? 🙂
I never knew there can be so many type of soybean curd. No no, these are NOT cheese! Really.
More pickled goods.
Something for your pet fish? Or for that little plot of land that you been trying to coax some life out of? Buy them here!
Done with the lower floor, I took the escalator (yes a working and dirty one) up to the 2nd floor.
And was greeted by this. Whoa, the 2nd floor is happening! This was where the action is!
Cows and pigs are being gutted, weighed and sold. The women in the business wielded the cleaver as surely as any man.
Blood and flesh aside, potatoes, colourful vegetables and chillies lined another alley.
Fresh dumplings anyone?
Home goods, some groceries and clothing are sold here too.
This is fermented beancurd. There must be about 20 variety of these at one stall. The lady owner was giving me looks so I didn’t take too many photos of her goods.
Outside of the market street peddlers hawk their goods. I found that most of them sells difference items from what was sold within the Yu lin market building.
For instance, bullfrogs!
A lot of unidentifiable greens. If only I could understand Mandarin!
Nuts and some form of roots.
Morning tea for you?
There are independent mini markets within the vicinity too.
I spent almost 2-3 hours here and I loved every minute of it. My only regret was not being able to speak Mandarin and thus I wasn’t able to converse with the stall owners. I have many questions left unanswered but I guess I’ll have to make do with only photographs for now. I’m grateful that our Chengdu trip wasn’t as rushed as our Shanghai one and I had time to visit a local wet market!
Where: Yulin market, between Yulin Road and Yulin Street.
Just opposite this school.
How I got back to the hotel:
The way everyone drives in China is just crazy. Anything goes on the streets; lane cutting, queue jumping and non-stop honking. What an experience!
I hope to explore more markets in the world! What about you, would you get up early in the morning to go the wet market? 😉
AirAsia X flies to Chengdu from KUL 7 times a week.
The timetable of the flights are as follows:
|Kuala Lumpur to Chengdu||1815||2240||4 hours 25 mins||Mon – Fri|
|Chengdu to Kuala Lumpur||2355||0430||4 hours 25 mins||Mon – Fri|
|Kuala Lumpur to Chengdu||0915||1340||4 hours 25 mins||Sat – Sun|
|Chengdu to Kuala Lumpur||1455||1930||4 hours 25 mins||Sat – Sun|
*This wonderful experience wasn’t a part of our itinerary during our media familiarization trip organized by AirAsia X, but I went to the market during our free + easy time. 🙂
More on Chengdu, China:
- Sichuan food in Chengdu: 1st meal – Wei Tian Restaurant at Kuan Zhai Xiang Zi
- Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding – Chengdu Panda base
- McDonalds and KFC in Chengdu – Vegetable Wrap with Rice Cakes & Grilled Chicken Burger
- New Century Global Centre – biggest building in the world in Chengdu China
- Going cultural in Chengdu: Mask Changing Opera performance & the Paradise Ethos Chinese Cultural Show, Happy Valley