Running alongside the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations in Beijing, the Chengdu Panda Asian Food Festival has proved a tasty side dish, impressing guests from around the globe.
A common bond among all Asian nations is a love for and a rich tradition of food. As a major birthplace of Sichuan cuisine, the city of Chengdu is synonymous with food - known as the first city of gastronomy in Asia.
At the opening ceremony of the food festival, which runs from May 15 to 22, the Chengdu Catering Profession Association established the Asian Food Culture Alliance to promote better knowledge and understanding of the diverse food cultures in Asia.
The One Belt One Road South East Asian NGOs Alliance, the World Chilli Alliance, the Chinese branch of Slow Food International, the International Food Culture Exchange Association in South Korea and a Japanese alliance for spicy food, were among the first professional bodies to join the alliance.
As well as promoting Asian food, the alliance will also serve as a vehicle to protect and inherit gastronomic skills and professional training, said Yuan Xiaoran, secretary-general of the Chengdu Catering Profession Association.
Delegations from Thailand, Israel, Pakistan, South Korea, Singapore, Japan and China's Hong Kong and Macao each held themed days during the food festival, welcoming people from around the world with tastes of their unique cuisines and cultures.
A whole host of events were held during the festival, including the 2019 China (Chengdu) International Food Cultures Summit Forum, four exhibitions of essays, photography and films about Chinese cuisine through the ages, as well as tours of the city itself.
Food was not only the main draw of the menu for the Chengdu city tours, with guests being taken to see that other icon of Chengdu - the giant panda, as well as relics which date back as far as 4,000 years at the Jinsha Site Museum and the natural beauty of the Jincheng Greenway.
Gastronomy has the ability to demonstrate just how competitive a city can be, according to Carolina Quintana, coordinator of partnerships and networks of the Creative Economy Programme of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
She added that the festival had helped her gain a deeper understanding of Sichuan cuisine and that it wasn't just all about its spiciness and hotpot, but many diversified flavors and cooking techniques.
Clement Piquet, a partner of magazine Food and Wine, was among those that toured popular sites in Chengdu and is a fan of Sichuan cuisine, believing it to be the most delicious food in the world.
He said chefs of Sichuan cuisine have the spirit of innovation, born from the local culture.
"Chengdu is not only home to many renowned chefs, but also attracts top chefs from around the world," he said.
Jiao Tong, a food writer from Taiwan, said for those obsessed with food, a pilgrimage to Chengdu is a must.
"Eating Sichuan cuisine in Chengdu reminds me of famous poets and poetry," he said. "The culture here has become immersed in the food."
Susumu Jimbo, a Japanese sushi expert and renowned musician, said as neighboring countries, Japan and China share many things in gastronomic culture and that the tour of Chengdu allowed him to learn more about Chinese tradition.
Chengdu is not just the home of the famous dishes of Sichuan cuisine, such as mapo tofu (stewed bean curd with minced pork in pepper sauce) and kung pao chicken, but also the first Asian city to be given the title of a city of gastronomy by the UNESCO.
Sichuan cuisine has become a bridge to promote dialogue and cultural communication in Asia and the rest of the world.
Former first lady of the United States Michelle Obama, former British prime minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have all tasted Sichuan cuisine during visits to China.
Chengdu aims to become a world city of culture, and food will play a major role in that, according to the city's government.
According to their plan, Chengdu will become a global gastronomic communications center, a national gastronomic cultural exchange and innovation center, a standards setting center for Sichuan cuisine, and a gastronomic talent training center by 2020.