"It is not only a food festival, but also a feast for culinary culture."
The Chengdu Panda Asian Food Festival is being served up as of Wednesday in Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan province, attracting gourmets and gourmands from across the world eager to tuck into Chinese cuisine and delicacies from other parts of Asia.
The event, which runs its course through May 22, has 45 activities on the menu.
These range from forums, food-tasting tours and exchanges among chefs as well as theme days dedicated to different countries and regions, according to organizers.
In addition to local food, more than 100 restaurants that specialize in Japanese, Korean and Thai cuisine, as well as other Asian delicacies, will offer their signature dishes at the festival.
"During the event, different countries and regions will have their theme day," said Zhang Yanwei, deputy director of foreign affairs at the Chengdu city government.
She said the theme days will center on food but will involve other cultural activities as well.
The festival will feature a range of events designed to foster cultural exchanges, including a forum on international cuisine, an exhibition of Chinese cooking culture and an exhibition of Chinese food literature.
"It is not only a food festival, but also a feast for culinary culture," said Huang Dachao, deputy director of the Chengdu culture, radio and TV, press and publication bureau.
The exhibition of food culture is being held in the Chengdu Museum and will last until June 9.Showcased are 122 pieces (or sets) of artifacts as well as varied texts and pictures.
Based on archaeological and historical studies, the exhibition is designed to show the development of China's culinary culture as well as exchanges between China and other parts of the world during certain periods of history.
Another exhibition, which focuses on Chinese food literature, features up to 1,500 menus dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It also covers cuisines in different areas of China. Together they present a kaleidoscopic view of how Chinese food has evolved over the past several hundred years.
As Chengdu speeds up efforts to build itself into a globally important city of culture, one of its efforts is to become an international city of gastronomy, said Chen Xiaobing, a senior official at the Chengdu bureau of commerce.
Sichuan cuisine is one of the most popular Chinese cuisines overseas, according to a survey organized by the China Cuisine Association.
The Chengdu city government plans to make an international hub in terms of traditional and innovative cuisines as well as chef training by 2020.
The city's food and beverage revenue is projected to reach 110 billion yuan ($16.04 billion) by then. The city is home to over 100,000 restaurants.