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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 include Chongqing, Chengdu, Zigong, and Buddhist vegetarian style.
Sichuan in the Middle Ages welcomed Near Eastern crops, such as broad beans, sesame, and walnuts, and starting in the 16th century its list of major crops was 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 pepper (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 was cut by perhaps three quarters in the wars from the Ming to the Qing dynasty and 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 Szechuan dishes are spicy, although a typical meal includes non-spicy dishes to cool the palate. Szechuan cuisine is composed of seven basic flavours: sour, pungent, hot, sweet, bitter, aromatic, and salty. Szechuan 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.
Sichuan's geography of mountains and plains and location in the western part of the country has shaped food customs. The Sichuan Basin is a fertile producer of rice and vegetables, while a wide variety of plants and herbs prosper in the upland regions, as well as mushrooms and other fungi. Yoghurt, which probably spread from India through Tibet in medieval times, is consumed among the Han Chinese, a custom which is unusual in other parts of the country. Unlike sea salt, the salt produced from Sichuan salt springs and wells does not contain iodine, leading to goiter problems before the 20th century.
Szechuan cuisine often contains food preserved through pickling, salting, and drying and is generally spicy owing to heavy application of chili oil. The Sichuan pepper (Chinese: 花椒; pinyin: huājiāo; literally: "flower pepper") is commonly used. Sichuan pepper has an intensely fragrant, citrus-like flavour and produces a "tingly-numbing" (Chinese: 麻; pinyin: má) sensation in the mouth. Also common are garlic, chili peppers, ginger, star anise, and other spicy herbs, plants and spices. Broad bean chili paste (simplified Chinese: 豆瓣酱; traditional Chinese: 豆瓣醬; pinyin: dòubànjiàng) is also a staple seasoning. The region's cuisine has also been the source of several prominent sauces widely used in Chinese cuisine in general today, including yuxiang (魚香), mala (麻辣), and guaiwei (怪味).
Pork is overwhelmingly the major meat. Beef is somewhat more common in Szechuan cuisine than it is in other Chinese cuisines, perhaps due to the prevalence of oxen in the region. Stir-fried beef is often cooked until chewy, while steamed beef is sometimes coated with rice flour to produce a very rich gravy. Szechuan cuisine also utilizes various bovine and porcine organs as ingredients, such as intestine, arteries, the head, tongue, skin, and liver, in addition to other commonly utilised portions of the meat.
|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|
|Yuxiangrousi||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|
|Fuqi feipian||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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