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The Chengdu Spice Market 成都香料市场

 

You can smell the Chengdu Spice Market from way down the street as you pass the Wukuaishi Bus Station, thronging with tiny Sichuanese farmers from out in the country come to Chengdu to look for work – baskets filled with belongings on their backs, or rucksacks made from worn denim, wearing the farmer’s uniform of a worn brown suit jacket, rolled up navy blue suit trousers and rubber-soled khaki gym shoes.

当你穿过成都五块石汽车站的时候,远在街道的尽头就能闻到成都的香料市场,这里聚集着从乡下到成都来找工作的四川农民工——背上背着装满东西的筐子,或由旧牛仔裤做的帆布背包,穿着农民工特有的制服,一身很旧的棕色西装外套,卷着边的藏蓝色西服裤子和一双卡其色胶底运动鞋。

Traffic is mayhem at this spot as bus passengers with bags and boxes weave in and out between vehicles and buses, taxis cut in on one another to vie for passengers, and three-wheeled modi taxis crowd the pavement, calling for fares. There are a lot of horns honking and raised voices, and between all this street vendors have carved out their own slice of pavement and are selling roast sweet potatoes, corn-on-the-cob and spicy cold noodles in cardboard tubs. It’s complete chaos.
Then suddenly the astringent smell of Sichuan pepper goes right into your nose and hits that spot reserved for wasabi or horseradish, clearing your head, and you keep walking.

这里的交通看起来就像是被蓄意破坏过,拎着大包小包的旅客在车辆和公车间迂回前进,出租车彼此加塞争夺乘客,聚集在人行道上的三轮摩的,不停地讨价还价。喧嚣的喇叭声和大嗓门,在这条街上的小贩们已经开拓出他们自己的那片区域,卖着香甜的烤红薯,玉米棒和快餐纸盒装的辛辣凉面。一片混乱。然后突然四川辣椒的呛味儿会进入你的鼻子,芥末和山葵会触碰到的那个敏感点,使你的头脑一下子清醒,接着走下去。

It’s great to be back in Chengdu (and back on the road) after nearly two weeks of sitting still in Shanghai waiting for the campervan to be repaired. I’m not that great at sitting still, preferring to keep moving, keep doing, keep seeing new things, a trait that is exhausting at times for me and everyone else. For once I really needed some quiet downtime to recover from the previous couple of months of very rugged and challenging travel, and you know, eat some familiar foods. Wear clean clothes. Have coffee with friends. It was delightful.
We arrived in Chengdu feeling completely recharged and re-energized, and ready for new places, but before leaving town I wanted to visit the Spice Market where I’d heard Sichuan’s famed hua jiao pepper and chillies are bought and sold. It’s a massive place taking up a whole block, divided into sections for chillies, peppers, dried spices, dried mushrooms, dried seafood and fresh garlic and ginger. 
It’s an Aladdin’s Cave for lovers of spice, and I spent hours there chatting with the vendors and wiping my streaming eyes.

在上海呆了两周,待房车修好后,再次回到成都(回来的路上)的感觉太棒了。我不擅长静坐等待,更喜欢继续前进,继续做点儿什么,继续看到新的东西。有一点我和其他人一样,有时候会感到筋疲力尽。这一次我真的需要一些安静的停工期,从之前几个月的颠簸和刺激(挑战性)的旅途中恢复,而且你知道,吃一些熟悉的食物。穿着干净的衣服。和朋友一起喝喝咖啡。这确实令人心情愉快。我们回到成都,感觉完全充满了电,注入了活力,准备去新的地方,但在离开城市之前,我想参观的香料市场,我听说在那里买卖四川著名的花椒和辣椒。


The main hall of the market is a vast space stacked from floor to ceiling with bags of chillies – from Xinjiang (curled and crinkled), from Hebei (straight and dark) and from Henan (straight and plump). Each has a different taste and degree of heat, although if you really want to maximize the heat you can also purchase sacks of chili seeds (above).

 The air is full of the acrid smell of dried chillies and it makes your eyes water and your nose run. I developed a tight cough, the kind you get when you fry chillies at home and the kitchen fills with the aerosolized chili vapour. The chili vendors (and their children) seemed completely immune to it though – playing cards, eating lunch and gossiping amongst the red-filled sacks.

市场大棚下地方很宽敞,从地板到天花板堆积了大包小包的辣椒 有来自新疆的(表皮皱且形状卷曲),来自河北的(形状直且色泽深),来自河南的(外形笔直且饱满)。每种辣椒都有不同的味道和火辣感,但如果你真的想体验最大限度的热辣,你也可以买上几包上述几种辣椒的种子。空气中充满刺鼻干辣椒的辛辣味儿,它使你不停地流眼泪和流鼻涕。我会很紧凑短促地咳嗽,就是那种当你在家里炒辣椒,厨房里充满了辣椒雾气的情形下,使人产生的那种咳嗽。辣椒供应商似乎完全不受它影响在装满红辣椒麻袋间打牌,吃午饭,闲聊。

The Sichuan pepper hall was next – hua jiao 花椒 (flower pepper) is the tiny outer husk of the seed of the prickly ash bush, and for those who’ve never had the pleasure of trying it, sichuan pepper is unique for its mala or numbing spiciness. Not numbing in the way eating raw chillies numbs your mouth, but truly numbing, in an anaesthetic sort of way. 
Chew one sichuan pepper and you taste a pleasant, peppery, slighty citrus medicinal flavour. After a minute the tip of your tongue feels a little numb and there is a pleasant tingling on your lips. Eat two or three and the rest of your tongue and lips now feel quite numb. The effect is fleeting and not unpleasant.
Sichuan pepper is used with enthusiasm is Sichuan cooking for flavouring soups, hotpots, braises and more. Until I visited the market I was unaware that in addition to the red variety, Sichuan pepper also comes in a dark green variety (qing hua jiao 青花椒) with a slightly different tatse and more powerful numbing properties.
接下来是四川花椒大棚花椒(花椒)是美洲花椒灌木的种子,有着很小的外壳,这些东西没人有兴趣尝试,四川花椒由于它的麻而独树一帜。吃生花椒来麻木你的嘴的时候不会感到麻,但以麻醉的方式食用会感到真正的麻。嚼一个花椒,感觉还不错,有点辛辣,略微的柑橘类药物的味道。一分钟后,你的舌尖感觉有点麻木,嘴唇有舒服的刺痛感。吃两个或三个,你的舌头其余部分和嘴唇,会感觉相当的麻。这种感觉是短暂的,不会不舒服。花椒被使用的非常广泛,在四川烹饪中,调味汤,火锅,炖煮等等很多。我走进市场才知道除了红色品种,花椒也有一个品种是深绿色的(青花椒),它有一种略为不同的口味以及更强的致麻感。

The dried spice hall was extraordinary, filled with intoxicating smells of star anise (above), cassia quills (below), bay leaves (used extensively in Chinese cooking – a surprise to me), turmeric, dried ginger and cloves. It’s the first and probably last time I will see someone purchase 10 kilograms of cloves at once! There were so many more I couldn’t begin to name, trying to guess their uses by their smell.
干香料大厅真是不可思议,充满着醉人的香味,八角(上方),肉桂(下方),月桂叶(在中国烹饪中用途广泛我很吃惊),姜黄,生姜还有丁香干。这是第一次也可能是我最后一次看到有人一次购买10公斤的丁香!还有很多我叫不上名儿的香料。

The last hall holds dried goods like mushrooms (forty varieties) and seafood – tiny translucent dried shrimp, flat tentacled squid bundled together like cards, silvery dried sardines. 
最后一个大棚装满干货,像香菇(40个品种)和海鲜微小的半透明虾干,像扑克牌一样捆绑在一起的扁平触手的鱿鱼,还有银色的干沙丁鱼。

The vendors of the spice market are its lifeblood, a hard-working, cheery bunch who toil seven days a week. Chengdu people are very friendly, but the vendors at the spice market are almost overwhelming in their enthusiastic friendliness, and it’s a place that sees few foreign visitors.

A group of chili vendors trailed me around the market, explaining to everyone who I was and where I was from. (Australia? Wow! Lives in Shanghai huh? Ooh. Interested in Chinese food? Of course!) I was delighted by their hospitality and good humour – I think my eyes streamed as much from laughter as from the chillies.

If you’re ever in Chengdu, yes, be sure to see the pandas, but don’t miss the Spice Market. It’s unforgettable.

香料市场的供应商是它的生机的来源,这群活泼的人努力工作,一周7天辛劳的工作。成都人都很友好,但香料市场的供应商在热情这个方面几乎是力压群雄,这里几乎很少看到外国游客。在市场里 A组的辣椒供应商一直跟着我,和每个人解释我是谁,从哪来。 (澳大利亚?哇哦!住在上海吧?嗯?哦。对中国菜感兴趣吗?当然!)我很高兴他们的热情和良好的幽默感我觉得我笑出来的泪水和辣出来的泪水一样多。如果你要去成都,没错,一定要去看看大熊猫,但千万不要错过香料市场。这绝对是个令人难忘的地方。

Chengdu Spice Market 成都香料市场


2 East Saiyuntai No 1 Road, Chenghau District, Chengdu (about 500m from the Wukuaishi bus station)
Open seven days 8am-4.30pm

成都香料市场
成都市赛云台东二路2
赛云台东一路(距离五块石汽车站大约500米)

开放时间 一周七天上午8下午4点半