Chongqing Streetfood

Last August, I spent an evening (and a few daylight hours while shooting other things) photographing Chongqing's streetfood culture. Big thanks are due to David at the Asia Society's China File for support on this project. You can see more images in my archive: Chongqing Streetfood.

It doesn't matter how many times you tell the cook not to add hot peppers, anything you order in Chongqing is going to be mouth-numbing and hotter than you've ever tasted before. It will be good, but it will be hot. From hotpot with friends to streetside barbecue to cold noodles from a bangbang man's buckets, Chongqing's myriad street vendors operate late into the night. You'll be lucky to get a table at the restaurants opening onto Tiyu Road, an area in Chongqing's central Yuzhong district and ground zero for the city's streetfood scene. But just about every little road throughout the city has a few cooks that set up shop on the street.

In the morning, you can find the standard oil sticks (youtiao) and porridge (xifan or congee), though there's usually an assortment of spicy pickled vegetables, tofus, and beans to add to the bowl. After the heat of the day cools off, vendors start parking their carts at street corners and the edges of plazas around Chongqing. On Shibati, the famous 18 Steps neighborhood built on a staircase, the street vendors are disappearing because the area, one of Chongqing's oldest remaining neighbhorhoods, will be demolished and redeveloped starting in October 2014. Most street vendors' customers now are demolition workers. Near Ciqikou ancient town, the tourists disappear at night, and shaokao vendors fill up the sidewalks. In Shapingba, street vendors fill the open areas near Chongqing University's gates. In Deyi World Plaza, one of Chongqing's glittering club and shopping areas, though, independent street vendors have given way to franchise kiosks.

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