Chinese food may be a popular choice in many countries around the world, but it’s safe to say, enjoying a taste of authentic Chinese fare can only be done in China. Chinese cuisine is one of the many reasons people visit China, and return time and time again.
The food is a vital part of Chinese culture. Due to the vastness of the country, its food scene is particularly diverse. China is home to a number of different cuisines as a result.
Each province has its own unique taste, which means visitors will be in foodie’s paradise as they travel through the country and sample every region’s delicious dishes and delicacies.
Sichuan cuisine is one of the most famous culinary styles in China, it’s also the country’s most popular. Here we take a closer look at Sichuan cooking to offer you the perfect introduction ahead of your China trip.
What is Sichuan cuisine?
Sichuan – also referred to as Szechuan – cuisine is a culinary style that originates from China’s Sichuan Province. It’s known for being hot and spicy, with some dishes often described as ‘mouth-numbing’ due to their intensity. There is a reason why Sichuan food is so spicy however as The Daily Meal details:
“Sichuan is known to have poor weather with high humidity and lots of rainy days, which is why red pepper is used in so many dishes. Red pepper helps reduce internal dampness, and so it paved the way for hot dishes to be a common thing in Szechuan cuisine. The humid climate also drives many to implement a variety of food preservation techniques including pickling, salting, drying, and smoking food.”
What can I expect from Sichuan dishes?
Sichuan may be the spiciness Chinese cuisine available but it is also the most flavoursome. Sichuan dishes use a lot of garlic and chilli to achieve a distinct and pungent flavour.
Dishes are rich in flavour with the unique taste of Sichuan pepper instantly recognisable. Sichuan pepper is grown widely throughout the Sichuan Province and is not generally found in other Chinese cuisines. Its addition provides the mouth tingling numbness that Sichuan dishes are known and loved for.
Sichuan pepper is rarely used alone in the rest of China and the world. It is more commonly used in conjunction with other spices and is one of the primary ingredients of five-spice powder alongside cloves, fennel, star anise and cassia.
Meat is a staple part of Sichuan dishes too, with beef and fish popularly used. Sichuan cuisine uses more beef than any other Chinese cuisine due to the wide availability of oxen in the province.
Expect plenty of heat, spiciness and flavour from the Sichuan dishes you try. Dishes are textural and well-seasoned with cooking methods like stir-frying, steaming, braising, baking, and fast-frying all used to create the cuisine’s world-famous offerings.
Which Sichuan dishes should I try?
Sichuan cuisine offers a vast range of dishes to suit all tastes and dietary requirements. As well as fish and beef, pork, vegetables, and tofu are used with other fresh produce and plenty of spices. When visiting the Sichuan Province be sure to sample kung pao chicken, mapo tofu, dandan noodles, and Sichuan hotpot.
Dine like a local and give fuqi fei pian a try. This Sichuan dish is affectionately known as ‘husband and wife lung slices’ and is something of a delicacy. It consists of thinly sliced beef (or cow lung or tongue in more traditional versions) seasoned with chilli oil and is surprisingly tasty and deliciously aromatic.
Your Chinese dining experience wouldn’t be complete without chopsticks. Learn how to use chopsticks by reading our essential guide.