Sān Dàpào, or “three big cannons,” is probably the loudest street treat in Chengdu, China. Vendors throw orbs of sweetened sticky rice against a brass plate, causing the dang! dang! dang! that gives the dish its artillery-inspired name. As the morsels bounce off the metal sheet, they land in a bucket filled with toasted soy and ground sesame. As a finishing touch, the powdered rice balls are doused in sweet syrup and studded with toothpicks.
Street hawkers often set up shop in a highly visible spot, then draw in passersby with performances, constant clatters, and sweet aromas. Previously, the sticky balls were sold near teahouses to accommodate drinkers looking for snacks. But due to rapid development in Chengdu, locations serving traditional Sān Dàpào continue to dwindle. This bang on a tray might turn out to be a flash in the pan.