Sichuan cuisine, Szechwan cuisine, or Szechuan cuisine, alternatively known as Chuan cuisine, is a style of Chinese cuisine originating from Sichuan Province in southwestern China. It has bold flavours, particularly the pungency and spiciness resulting from liberal use of garlic and chili peppers, as well as the unique flavour of Sichuan pepper.
There are many local variations within Sichuan Province and the neighbouring Chongqing Municipality, which was part of Sichuan Province until 1997. Four sub-styles of Sichuan cuisine include Chongqing, Chengdu, Zigong and Buddhist vegetarian style.
UNESCO declared Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, to be a city of gastronomy in 2011 to recognise the sophistication of its cooking.
Sichuan in the Middle Ages welcomed Near Eastern crops, such as broad beans, sesame and walnuts. Since the 16th century, the list of major crops in Sichuan has even been lengthened by New World newcomers. The characteristic chili pepper came from Mexico, but probably overland from India or by river from Macao, replacing the spicy peppers of ancient times and complementing the Sichuan peppercorn.
Other newcomers from the New World included maize (corn), which largely replaced millet; white potatoes introduced by Catholic missions; and sweet potatoes. The population of Sichuan was cut by perhaps three quarters in the wars from the Ming dynasty to the Qing dynasty. Settlers from the adjacent Hunan Province brought their cooking styles with them.
Sichuan is colloquially known as the "heavenly country" due to its abundance of food and natural resources. One ancient Chinese account declared that the people of Sichuan uphold good flavour, and they are fond of hot and spicy taste.Most Sichuan dishes are spicy, although a typical meal includes non-spicy dishes to cool the palate.
Sichuan cuisine is composed of seven basic flavours: sour, pungent, hot, sweet, bitter, aromatic and salty. Sichuan food is divided into five different types: sumptuous banquet, ordinary banquet, popularised food, household-style food and food snacks. Milder versions of Sichuan dishes remain a staple of American Chinese cuisine.
The complex topography of Sichuan Province, including its mountains, hills, plains, plateaus and the Sichuan Basin, has shaped its food customs with versatile and distinct ingredients.
Abundant rice and vegetables are produced from the fertile Sichuan Basin, whereas a wide variety of herbs, mushrooms and other fungi prosper in the highland regions. Pork is overwhelmingly the most common type of meat consumed.Beef is somewhat more common in Sichuan cuisine than it is in other Chinese cuisines, perhaps due to the prevalence of oxen in the region.
Sichuan cuisine also utilises various bovine and porcine organs as ingredients, such as intestine, arteries, head, tongue, skin and liver, in addition to other commonly utilised portions of the meat.
Rabbit meat is also much more popular in Sichuan than elsewhere in China. It is estimated that the Sichuan Basin and Chongqing area consume about 70 percent of China's rabbit meat consumption.Yoghurt, which probably spread from India through Tibet in mediaeval times, is consumed among the Han Chinese. This is an unusual custom in other parts of the country. The salt produced from Sichuan salt springs and wells, unlike the sea salt, does not contain iodine, leading to goiter problems before the 20th century.
Sichuan cuisine often contains food preserved through pickling, salting and drying. Preserved dishes are generally served as spicy dishes with heavy application of chili oil.
The most unique and important spice in Sichuan cuisine is the Sichuan pepper, flower pepper. Sichuan peppercorn has an intense fragrant, citrus-like flavour and produces a tingly-numbing sensation in the mouth. Other commonly used spices in Sichuan cuisine are garlic, chili peppers, ginger and star anise.
Broad bean chili paste is one of the most important seasonings.It is an essential component to famous dishes such as Mapo tofu and double-cooked pork slices. Sichuan cuisine is the origin of several prominent sauces/flavours widely used in modern Chinese cuisine, including the garlic sauce/yuxiang.
Common preparation techniques in Sichuan cuisine include stir frying, steaming and braising, but a complete list would include more than 20 distinct techniques.
Although many dishes live up to their spicy reputation, there are a large percentage of recipes that use little or no hot spices at all, including dishes such as tea-smoked duck.
Sichuan food or Sichuan Cuisine is quite popular over the world. What comes into your mind when you think of Sichuan food? Is it hot, spicy and sometimes sweet due to the fish sauce? However Sichuan food was not born to be like this.
Back into three kingdoms, Sichuan area was the kingdom of shu and located in the southwest part of China. Sichuan people at that time liked to eat sweet food. Until Jin Dynasty, people add ginger, onions, chives and mustard into food and the food at that time is called pungent food. So at the very beginning, there is no hot in Chinese Sichuan cuisine. We still can find some dishes carries the traditional flavor such as boiled pork with mashed garlic.
About 200 or 300 years ago, hot peppers were brought into China. And people in this area begin to use hot peppers in their daily cooking. It is recorded that hot peppers were popular among folk.
Along with the development of Sichuan cuisine, the unique character of spicy and numb also becomes popular in many Sichuan dishes.
The weather might be another reason of the popularity of hot peppers. In fact, hot peppers and Sichuan peppercorns or Sichuan pepper are considered as the hearts of Sichuan cuisine. There are lots of mountains in Sichuan province. And the unique terrain creates high water content in air. People in this area need to eat hot peppers and peppercorns to dehumidify. During the period when hot peppers are not introduced, ginger and other spices played the similar role.
Now, there are hundreds of flavors in Sichuan cuisine. And each dish has its own unique taste and flavor. Most of the Chinese cooking methods are used in Sichuan cuisine. And another thing that makes Sichuan cuisine special is the seasoning used.
From baoning vinegar, Dou-chi or fermented soy beans to famous Pixian Doubanjiang and Chongqing chili sauce, all the different types of seasonings used in Sichuan cuisine endow the long lasting vitality of Sichuan cuisine.