How can any region top the place famed for two types of heat, both the red powder shaken liberally over every tofu and street snack, and the local peppercorns that leave lips numb and offer wonderful aftertaste of salt mixed with anise? Chengdu, one of the first cities in the world selected by UNESCO for its new program to preserve culinary heritage, has to be the world’s No. 1 place of pilgrimage for modern-day fire worshippers. The signature ma po tofu and gung bao chicken are just starters, with even fresh tofu custard and innocently bland wontons, not to mention whole-boiled tortoises, dutifully smothered with burning chili oil.
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