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10 Must-Try Sichuan Cuisine

December 4th, 2009 by

To understand how Sichuan cuisine developed, one must realize that 3/4ths of the Sichuan region of China is mountainous. This creates one of the richest temperate ecological habitats in the world, leading to a wide variety of ingredients which make up a typical Sichuan dish. Mix in lots of oil and chilies with more than 30 methods of cooking – from stir-fry to bake – and a whole lot of memorable (and spicy!) traditional meals can be prepared. Salted vegetables, pickled in brine, also finds its way into numerous dishes.

Here are 10 must-try Sichuan-style meals to try in China.

Hotpot

Hotpot - The usual hotpot broth is made from water, beef tallow, dried chili, Sichuan peppers, fennel seeds, lotus seeds, stare anise, and other herbs indigenous to the area. Meats and vegetables are then cooked in the boiling pot and dipped in a sauce of sesame oil mixed with chopped shallots and garlic. A perfect winter food, hotpot has other variations which include duck hotpot, black chicken and mushroom.

Ox Tongue and Tripe in Chili-Peanut Sauce: A cold cut delight, the smooth texture of tongue chunks contrast with the chewiness of the tripe strip. The spicy sauce brings on the heat for this cold appetizer.

Spicy Salad: A cold dish of shredded meat tossed in with chopped garlic, fresh chili, fennel leaves, coriander leaves, roasted peanuts, and chili oil. This salad is occasionally added with rectangular chunks made from rice.

Jelly Fungus
: A type of mushroom, these slippery tidbits have a flavor of sesame and chili, with a soft yet crunchy texture.

Dry and Spicy Pig’s Intestines: A hot dish of sliced intestines, with the crunchiness of some parts offsetting the chewiness of the others. This meal is accompanied with a heaping serving of chilies and peppercorn.

Zhongzi Crescent Dumplings: soft skins encasing a pork filling, bathed in chili and garlic oil.

Tea-Smoked Duck: A lengthy process of marinating, air-drying, smoking, steaming and deep-frying ends up with crispy red duck flesh and a deep-smoked flavor permeating throughout the juicy meat. It is sometimes eaten by itself, or served with a bowl of dried, crushed chili and sprinkled with ground Sichuan pepper.

Fen Zhen Roe: crushed rice mixed with shards of beef, spices, and garlic, piled to a heap and steamed.

Mapo Doufu

Mapo Doufu: Stir-fried cubes of tofu, pork mince, garlic, ginger, black bean paste, chili flakes, chicken stock and corn flour, with ground Sichuan pepper sprinkled on top. Also called “Pock-marked Mother Chen’s Beancurd”, the brilliant combination of textures and flavors, from the smoothness of the bean curd to the graininess of the chopped meat, will stun and stimulate the senses.

Tudou Men Paigu: Spare ribs and potatoes cooked with skinned garlic, dried chili pods, Sichuan peppercorns, chopped green peppers, and chopped shallots in water and chili oil. This dish is served on large platters to accompany beer drinking.

Make sure to drink lots of tea, a Sichuan practice which helps counter the oily density of the meals. Another thing to keep in mind is that the dried chili pods  piled onto each dish is not to be eaten, but is only meant to impart flavor to the food.

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