Turn up the heat on your Chinese cooking by embracing the bold flavours of Sichuan (or Szechuan) cuisine. Hailing from the Sichuan province in South West China, this multilayered cuisine showcases mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns, dried chillies, garlic, and other in-your-face ingredients. Here are seven authentic Sichuan dishes that every heat-loving home cook should master.
One of the best introductions to Sichuan cuisine is a DIY hot pot, as each diner you can control their own heat levels. Traditionally, the broth is a bubbling, mouth-searing melange of tingling Sichuan peppercorns, dried red chillies and stock, into which you dunk an array of ingredients, such as raw beef slices, fish balls, prawns, rice cakes and leafy greens, or whatever takes your fancy. When dining out, order half spicy and half mild so you can keep the heat in check. Try this homestyle version of simmered beef in hot chilli soup.
One of the most popular Sichuan dishes is kung pao chicken, a sweet and spicy stir-fry loaded with potent nubs of dried chilli, peanuts and leek. For a milder version at home, try Linda Cargill-Selfe’s kung pao chicken from our CNY competition.
Image courtesy: Linda Cargill-Selfe
Don’t let the literal translation of this dish put you off: ‘pock-marked old woman’ may not be the most appealing name going around, but this winter warmer is a must for spice lovers. Mapo tofu is cubes of creamy tofu in a fiery chilli-bean sauce, pepped up with chilli oil, Sichuan peppercorns, beef or pork mince, garlic and the poetically named ‘facing heaven pepper’, so called because it grows pointing towards the sky.
This Sichuan dish promises the best of both worlds, teaming the tenderness of simmering with the caramelised stickiness of stir-frying! First, simmer pork belly in a fragrant broth flavoured with ginger, star anise, goji berries and cloves, then chill the meat and cut into wafer-thin slices. Next, stir-fry with leek and capsicum in a piquant chilli bean sauce sweetened with sugar. Try our double-cooked pork recipe.
For a noodle dish that’ll put hair on your chest, try the classic Sichuan dandan mian. Thin wheat noodles are drenched in an earthy, funky sauce of chilli oil, preserved vegetables, Sichuan pepper, pork mince and sping onions.
The same fiery sauce can be poured over poached chicken for another tempting Sichuan recipe, bang bang chicken, so named for the way the chicken is tenderised by beating it with a stick or mallet.
Hold onto your hats, people: Yuxiang, meaning ‘fish fragrant’ actually contains no fish at all. Instead, this Sichuan seasoning is an aromatic mix of garlic, spring onions and ginger, laced with chilli oil, soy sauce and peppers, and used to flavour slender fingers of eggplant or strips of pork. Discover why fish-fragrant eggplant is a must-eat in China.
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