You might have heard a certain saying: “to travel is to eat”.
Traveling unlocks not only foreign landscapes and cultures, but also interesting foods and cuisines that you may not have encountered before. Plus, you gotta eat – or you’re going to starve; so why not try something new?
Anyway, today, we’ll be looking at the different cuisines of Sichuan province, China’s fourth-largest city, and home to a variety of sights such as the Giant Pandas and the Jiuzhaigou Valley.
If there could only be one word to describe Sichuan food, that word would be “spicy” for sure.
Lots of Sichuanese food is rather spicy, and the 花椒 (huā jiāo) is probably the most distinct and important spice in Sichuanese food. So much that it’s even called the Sichuan pepper in English.
One of the more important and most common seasonings is the broad bean chili paste, or 豆瓣酱 (dòu bàn jiàng), which is used in several characteristic cuisines, like the Mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐; má pó dòu fǔ) or the twice-cooked pork (回锅肉; huí guō ròu).
Both, along with a variety of other seasonings, help bring out the characteristic hot and spicy taste that Sichuan food is known for.
And no, the Szechuan sauce from Rick & Morty is not part of Sichuan cuisine. So don’t dwell on that, thank you.
Sorry, Rick, but that’s the wrong sauce.
Anyway, let’s take a look at a few of the more famous dishes in Sichuan food.
Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐; má pó dòu fǔ)
This dish features tofu served in a broad bean chili paste sauce, topped with minced meat – usually pork or beef – and spring onions. It has a numbingly spicy, hot and fresh taste.
Husband and Wife Lung Slices (夫妻肺片; fū qī fèi piàn)
Contrary to what you might think, this dish does not usually contain lung slices. It’s actually a euphemism.
In the 1930s, there was a husband and wife couple who sold slices of beef offal (basically a mixture of meats in a cow). Their dishes were so delicious, that they became famous – so famous that a businessman gave them a gold-lettered plaque.
However, the dish that the couple had been selling was called 废片 (fèi piàn), which means “leftover pieces”. Now that doesn’t sound good enough for a gold-lettered plaque.
So the businessman decided to change the 废 to 肺 (fèi), which sounds the same anyway. And thus the name “夫妻肺片” was born.
Anyway, the 夫妻肺片 are prepared in vinegar in room temperature, and seasoned with chili oil.
Sichuan Hot Pot (四川火锅; sì chuān huǒ guō)
Sichuan hot pot, is as expected, numbingly spicy. However, in many cases, like in the picture above, Sichuan hot pot features two different soups – the spicy one, and the non-spicy one.
The spicy hot pot soup gets its taste from the Sichuan peppers in the soup and other strong-flavored herbs and spices.
Dandan Noodles (担担面; dān dān miàn)
Like with mapo tofu and kung pao chicken, you’ve probably tried dandan noodles before. But the original Sichuan version of dandan noodles is different – they are bathed in chili oil, along with vegetables, Sichuan pepper and minced pork. As such, the noodles are spicy – unlike those out-of-province fakes – and savory.
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