Kung Pao Chicken (Gongbao Jiding 宫爆鸡丁)Sichuanese food is probably one of the most well known Chinese regional cuisines. Sometimes spelled Szechuanese or Szechwanese, it is not only universally loved in China. Today plates full of colorful dried peppers and Sichuan peppercorns can be found in big cities around the world including New York City, where the Sichuanese restaurant Lan Sheng even has a Michelin Star.
We here at Cook in Shanghai find that our guests love learning to prepare home-style Sichuanese dishes in our cooking classes. Because of their strong flavors and colorful appearance.
Sichuanese food is of course from Sichuan province, in the southwest part of China on the foothills of the Himalaya mountains. The origins of Sichuanese food can be traced all the way back to the Qin Dynasty from 221 to 206 BCE. Then, Sichuan was then known as Bashu.
Its development is deeply connected to its geography. Sichuanese is humid all year round and spicy food is believed to rid the body of dampness. What’s more, in the summer, it’s traditionally believed that spicy food opens the pores, causing you to sweat and cool down. Meanwhile in the winter months, the spiciness is thought to warm up the blood, keeping you warm.Dry Fried Green Beans (Ganbian Siji Dou 干煸四季豆)
Although spiciness was always a signature flavor of Sichuanese cuisine, hot peppers only came after they were introduced as a result of European exploration of the Americas. Since then hot peppers have become a staple of most Sichuanese dishes along with the Sichuan peppercorn. Beef, garlic and ginger are all used in greater quantities than in other Chinese cuisines.
Sichuanese food is considered one of the major four branches of Chinese food and can be further broken down into three major varieties: Chengdu, Zigong and Dazhou styles.
Chengdu style is the most typical of Sichuanese cuisine. It is considered well spiced but still relatively light and the most common Sichuanese food at banquets around China. Famous dishes include Twice Cooked Pork, Gongbao Chicken, and Mapodoufu. Zigong style (also known as Little River, or Yanbang) is famous for its very heavy flavors. It’s a well loved subbranch of Sichuanese cuisine that has introduced many dishes to the Sichuanese cannon including Shuizhu Fish. Dazhou (also known as south bank cuisine) also uses typically Sichuanese flavors but has been toned down a bit due to influences from migrants from Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. It is typically known for simple dishes like Koushui Chicken.
Mapo Doufu (麻婆豆腐)
The most typical flavors of Sichuanese cuisine are fish flavor, numbing spicy, orange peel, sour spicy and exotic taste (typified by chili bean sauce, sesame sauce, sugar, vinegar, oil and Sichuan peppercorn). These are all included in Sichuan’s most popular dishes including dan dan noodles, twice cooked pork, mapo doufu, Kung Pao chicken, chili chicken, hand torn cabbage, Sichuan boiled fish, and fish-fragrant eggplant. All of which you can find in our Sichuan recipes page!