- Date Posted: 2011-08-17 16:01
Sichuan cuisine, Szechuan cuisine, or Szechwan cuisine, is a style of Chinese cuisine originating in the Sichuan Province of southwestern China. It is one of the most famous Chinese cuisines in the world. Characterized by its spicy and pungent flavor, Sichuan cuisine, prolific of tastes, emphasizes on the use of chili. Pepper and prickly ash also never fail to accompany, producing typical exciting tastes. Besides, garlic, ginger and fermented soybean are also used in the cooking process. Wild vegetables and animals are usually chosen as ingredients.
Sichuan, is sometimes known as "heavenly country" due to its abundance of food and natural resources. Sichuan produces abundant domestic animals, poultry, and freshwater fish and crayfish. Also, Sichuan is a province with many mountains and rivers. Mountain produce and river fish are the main ingredients in Sichuan cooking. Beef is more common in Sichuan cuisine than it is in other Chinese cuisines, perhaps due to the widespread use of oxen in the region. Stir-fried beef is often cooked until chewy, while steamed beef is sometimes coated with rice flour to produce rich gravy.
The origin of Sichuan cuisine can be traced back to the Qin and Han Dynasties (221BC-220AD), its recognition as a distinct regional system took place in the Han Dynasties (206BC-220AD). During the period of the Three Kingdoms (220-265AD), the kingdom of Shu was located in Sichuan. According to historical research, the people in Shu liked sweet food. When in the Jin Dynasty, they preferred to eat pungent food; however, pungent food at that time referred to food made with ginger, mustard, chives, or onions. As a unique style of food, Sichuan cuisine was already famous more than 800 years ago during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) when Sichuan restaurants were opened in Lin'an, now called Hangzhou, the capital.
The hot pepper was introduced into China from South America around the end of the 17th century. Before that time, there were no hot dishes in Sichuan cuisine, and few were cooked with pungent and hot flavorings. Originally, its flavorings were very mild, unlike the popular dishes of today, such as Ma po tufu and other hot dishes, Even today, some Sichuan dishes, like velvet shark’s fin, braised bear’s paw, crisp duck roasted with camphor and tea, sea cucumber with pungent flavor, minced chicken with hollyhock, boiled pork with mashed garlic, dry – fried carp, and boiled Chinese cabbage have kept their traditional flavors.
Once hot pepper came to Sichuan, it became a favored food flavoring. Sichuan has high humidity and many rainy or overcast days. Hot pepper helps reduce internal dampness, so it was used frequently in dishes, and hot dishes became the norm in Sichuan cuisine. In the late Qing Dynasty around 19th century, Sichuan cuisine became a unique local flavor, enjoying the same reputation with Shandong, Cantonese(Guangdong) and Huaiyang cuisines.
Sichuan dishes consist of Chengdu, Chongqing and vegetarian dishes. Masterly used cooking techniques are sauteing, stir-frying without stewing, dry-braising, Pao (soaking in water) and Hui (frying then braising with corn flour sauce). Sichuan cuisine is famous for its distinct and various flavors, the most outstanding ones are fish flavors, pepper powder boiled in oil, strange flavor and sticky-hot.
Sichuan food is famous for its many flavors, and almost every dish has its own unique taste. This is because many flavorings and seasonings are produced in Sichuan Province. These include soy sauce from Zhongba, cooking vinegar from baoning, special vinegar from Sanhui, fermented soy beans from Tongchuan, hot pickled mustard tubers from Fuling, chili sauce from Chongqing, thick, broad – bean sauce from Pixian, and well salt from Zigong.
Sichuan pickles have an appealing smell, and are crisp, tender, salty, sour, hot, and sweet. If pickled elsewhere, even if made the same way using the same raw materials, they still would taste different. This is because the salt, which comes from wells in Zigong, has a unique flavor. In other places, sea salt is often used, which tastes slightly bitter. This example demonstrates that the flavoring materials are very important, apart from the skill of the cooks. In Sichuan food, a single flavor is rarely used, compound flavors are most common. By blending different seasonings, skilled cooks can make dozens of different sauces each with its own flavor, including creamy, salty, sweet and sour, litchi, sour with chili, hot with chili, spicy and hot, mashed garlic, distiller’s grain, fish sauce with chili, ginger juice, and soy sauce. The same sauce may be used differently in different dishes. For example, the flavor of the hot with chile sauce for boiled sliced pork is different from the flavor of the hot with chile sauce for Mapo tufu.
When flavoring foods, sometimes two or more flavorings are combined, and sometimes a hot fire is used to concentrate the extract from the dish to increase the intensity of the flavor, preserve the primary taste of the dish, remove unpleasant flavors, and increase pleasant flavors. Sichuan cuisine tends to use quick – frying, quick stir – frying, dry – braising, and dry – stewing. In quick – frying and quick stir – frying, the food is fried over a hot fire and stirred quickly without using another pan. For example, it takes about one minute to stir – fry liver and kidney to keep it tender, soft, delicious, and fresh.
Sichuan cuisine so carefully balances color,smell,flavor, shape and nutrition that its dishes not only look pleasant and appealing, but also nutritious.In Sichuan recipes there are several hundred popular dishes.Sichuan cuisine is able to prduce 100 different flavored dishes!Besides, Sichuan cooks provide dishes that are intentionally toned down for tourists at home and abroad. they have no difficulty in getting Sichuan food that suits their tastes whether it`s in a banquet,outstanding lunches,dinners,or snacks.
Typical menu items:
Kung Pao Chicken: diced chicken mixed with a sweet thick sauce, Sichuan peppercorns, peanuts and vegetables.
Twice Cooked Pork: pork rib steak chunks are boiled in hot water with ginger and salt. It is then cut into small slices and returned to the wok and shallow fried in hot oil. Served with vegetabes.
Tea smoked duck: marinated duck smoked over tea leaves and twigs of the camphor plant. The marinate consists of Sichuan peppercorns, baijiu, ginger, garlic and salt.
Mapo dofu: tofu cooked in spicy chili and bean based sauce.
Sichuan hotpot: A metal pot is placed on the table and ingredients are added and cooked together into a stew. Ingredients include sliced meat, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, egg dumplings and seafood. Usually eaten in the winter.
Fuqi feipian: a cold dish consisting of thinly sliced beef lung/tongue/stomach/heart, a number of spices and Sichuan peppercorns.
Shuizhu ‘water cooked’ dishes: boiled meat, vegetables, chili peppers and a large amount of vegetable oil are combined within a bowl. The meat is boiled only for a short period of time to preserve its tenderness.
Dan dan noodles: the dish consists of a spicy sauce that contains preserved vegetables, chili oil, Sichuan peppers, pork, scallions and noodles.