What to eat in Sichuan?
Sichuan cuisine, also known as Szechuan cuisine, is celebrated worldwide for its bold and fiery flavors. The province of Sichuan, located in southwestern China, is renowned for its culinary mastery, characterized by the liberal use of spices, particularly the infamous Sichuan peppercorns, and a tantalizing blend of sweet, sour, and spicy elements. Whether you're a local or a traveler, a culinary adventure in Sichuan is a journey into a world of diverse and mouth watering dishes. In this article, we'll explore some of the must-try delicacies that define Sichuan cuisine.
Famous Sichuan dishes:
1. Hot pot: The Fiery Soul of Sichuan Cuisine
Sichuan hot pot, or "huoguo" in Mandarin, is undoubtedly the crown jewel of Sichuan cuisine. This communal dining experience is a favorite among locals and a must-try for visitors. The hot pot consists of a simmering pot of spiced broth placed at the center of the table, surrounded by a variety of raw ingredients, such as thinly sliced meat, vegetables, mushrooms, and tofu. Diners cook these ingredients by submerging them in the bubbling broth.
The distinguishing feature of Sichuan hot pot is its scorching spiciness, achieved through the inclusion of Sichuan peppercorns and dried red chili peppers in the broth. The numbing and tingling sensation from the peppercorns, combined with the fiery heat of the chili peppers, creates a unique and addictive flavor profile. Popular accompaniments include sesame oil, garlic, and various dipping sauces.
2. Kung Pao Chicken: A Spicy Classic
Kung Pao Chicken, known as "Gong Bao Ji Ding" in Mandarin, is a beloved Sichuan dish that has gained international fame. This stir-fry dish features tender pieces of chicken cooked with peanuts, vegetables, and a delectable sauce made from Sichuan peppercorns, dried chili peppers, garlic, and ginger. The result is a tantalizing mix of sweet, spicy, and savory flavors that make Kung Pao Chicken an irresistible choice for spice enthusiasts.
3. Twice Cooked Pork: A Flavorful Delight
Twice Cooked Pork, or "Hui Guo Rou," showcases the culinary ingenuity of Sichuan cuisine. This dish begins with slices of pork belly that are first boiled, then thinly sliced and stir-fried with black bean paste, garlic, ginger, and an abundance of leeks. The contrast in textures, with the crispy leeks and tender pork, along with the complex blend of flavors, makes this dish a favorite among both locals and tourists.
4. Dan Dan Noodles: A Bowl of Spicy Comfort
Dan Dan Noodles, or "Dan Dan Mian," are a beloved street food staple in Sichuan. This dish consists of wheat noodles topped with a spicy, aromatic sauce made from sesame paste, soy sauce, Sichuan peppercorns, chili oil, and minced pork. The result is a satisfying bowl of noodles that's rich, spicy, and incredibly flavorful.
5. Bon Bon Chicken: A Refreshing Appetizer
Bon Bon Chicken, also known as "Bang Bang Ji," is a cold dish that offers a refreshing counterpoint to the fiery main courses of Sichuan cuisine. It features tender poached chicken, shredded into bite-sized pieces, and drizzled with a flavorful sauce made from soy sauce, sesame paste, garlic, and chili oil. The dish gets its name from the traditional method of tenderizing the chicken by "banging" it with a wooden stick.
Exploring Sichuan Street Food and Snacks
Sichuan's vibrant street food culture is a treasure trove for food enthusiasts looking for quick and delicious bites. While exploring the streets of Sichuan, keep an eye out for vendors selling a wide range of snacks and dishes. Some popular options include:
- Sichuan-style Skewers: These skewers feature a variety of ingredients such as meat, vegetables, and tofu, all marinated and grilled to perfection. The skewers are often generously seasoned with Sichuan spices.
- Sichuan Pancakes: These crispy and savory pancakes are a common street food item. They come in various flavors and can be filled with a choice of ingredients, such as vegetables, meats, or eggs.
- Ma La Tang: This spicy and numbing hot pot-style soup is available from street vendors. Diners can choose from an array of ingredients to be added to the boiling broth, creating a personalized and spicy soup experience.
- Jian Bing: A popular breakfast item, Jian Bing is a savory pancake filled with ingredients like egg, green onions, and crispy crackers. It's folded and served as a handheld snack.
Western Options in Chengdu
As Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, becomes increasingly cosmopolitan, you'll find a growing number of Western restaurants catering to diverse tastes. While Sichuan cuisine is a highlight, these Western dining options can provide a pleasant change of pace for those seeking a different culinary experience during their stay.
Sichuan cuisine is a celebration of bold flavors, spice, and culinary creativity. Whether you're delving into the fiery world of hot pot or savoring the nuanced spices of Kung Pao Chicken, Sichuan cuisine offers a culinary adventure that's both thrilling and unforgettable. Don't miss the chance to explore the diverse and mouthwatering dishes that make Sichuan a food lover's paradise. From street food stalls to high-end restaurants, Sichuan's culinary landscape is waiting to be discovered and savored.