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You might think that Sichuan food is all fire and spice. But never fear, there’s far more to this regional Chinese cuisine than those lip-tingling Sichuan peppercorns. Follow the lead of the locals with these top tips for taming the heat of Sichuan cuisine.
Choose Cooling Ingredients
According to Chinese medicine, ingredients are either cooling, warming or neutral, thanks to their effects on the body’s energy, or qi. One surefire way to temper the flames of Sichuan cooking is to include cooling ingredients, such as asparagus, cucumber, celery, lettuce, leafy Asian greens and eggplant.
Order Cold Plates
Some of Sichuan’s spiciest dishes are served cold, such as Kou Shui Ji, or ‘Sichuan chicken in chilli oil’. By serving the dish cold, you’re reducing the intensity of the chilli heat and allowing the more delicate flavours to come to the fore.
Stock Up on Palate-cleansing Sides
Another way to keep your cool when eating Sichuan food is to ensure you have a selection of palate-cleansing side dishes at the ready, such as pickled cucumbers, fermented mustard plant (known as ‘zha cai’ or ‘ya cai’), sweet and sour cabbage, and stir-fried Chinese lettuce.
Select Soothing Drinks
If you visit a Sichuan hot pot restaurant in Australia, take a look at the tables around you to see what their drinking. Chances are you’ll see jugs of soy milk or tomato juice being quaffed by the diners. These liquids have a cooling effect—the soy milk coats the mouth, while the tomato is considered a ‘cool’ ingredient—so they cleverly tone down the ever-growing intensity of the chilli-studded broth. If you do want alcohol with your meal, consider a cleansing beer over a glass of wine, as your favourite vino will be no match for Sichuan’s chilli heat and pungent flavours.