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Sichuan cuisine, Szechwan cuisine, or Szechuan cuisine (// or //; Chinese: 四川菜; pinyin: Sìchuān cài or Chinese: 川菜; pinyin: Chuān cài) 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 flavor of the Sichuan pepper. There are many local variations within Sichuan province and the Chongqing municipality, which was part of Sichuan until 1997. Four sub-styles of Sichuan cuisine include Chongqing, Chengdu, Zigong, and also Buddhist vegetarian style.
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 peppercone (huajiao). 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 to the Qing dynasty. Settlers from nearby 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 flavor, 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 including mountains, hills, plains, plateaus, and basin has shaped food customs in Sichuan 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 major meat. 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 utilizes various bovine and porcine organs as ingredients, such as intestine, arteries, head, tongue, skin, and liver, in addition to other commonly utilized 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 medieval 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.
The most unique and important spice in Sichuan cuisine is the Sichuan pepper (Chinese: 花椒; pinyin: huājiāo; literally: "flower pepper"). Sichuan peppercorn has an intense fragrant, citrus-like flavour and produces a "tingly-numbing" (Chinese: 麻; pinyin: má) sensation in the mouth. Other commonly used spices in Sichuan cuisine are garlic, chili peppers, ginger, and star anise, etc.
Broad bean chili paste (simplified Chinese: 豆瓣酱; traditional Chinese: 豆瓣醬; pinyin: dòubànjiàng) 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/flavors widely used in modern Chinese cuisine, including the garlic sauce/yuxiang (魚香), mala (麻辣), and guaiwei (怪味).
|English||Image||Traditional Chinese||Simplified Chinese||Pinyin||Notes|
|Kung Pao chicken||宮保雞丁||宫保鸡丁||gōngbǎo jīdīng|
|Tea-smoked duck||樟茶鴨||樟茶鸭||zhāngchá yā|
|Mapo tofu||麻婆豆腐||麻婆豆腐||mápó dòufǔ||"pockmarked granny's tofu"|
|Shredded pork in garlic sauce||魚香肉絲||鱼香肉丝||yuxiang rousi||"sliced pork with fish aroma"|
|Sichuan hotpot||四川火鍋||四川火锅||Sìchuān huǒguō|
|Sliced beef/beef tripe/ox tongue in chili sauce||夫妻肺片||夫妻肺片||fūqī fèipiàn||Cold beef tripe|
|Spicy deep-fried chicken||辣子雞||辣子鸡||làzǐjī|
|Dan dan noodles||擔擔麵||担担面||dàndàn miàn|
|Bon bon chicken||棒棒雞||棒棒鸡||bàngbàng jī|
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- Olivia Geng, French Rabbit Heads: The Newest Delicacy in Chinese Cuisine. The Wall Street Journal Blog, June 13, 2014
- Fuchsia Dunlop. Land of Plenty : A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking. New York: W.W. Norton, 2003. ISBN 0393051773.
- Fuchsia Dunlop. Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China. (New York: Norton, 2008). ISBN 9780393066579. The author's experience and observations, especially in Sichuan.
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