If our food lover’s guide to Sichuan cuisine has sparked your interest and you’re now ready to try cooking six-mouth tingling Sichuan main courses, then stock your pantry with these essential ingredients of the Sichuan kitchen.
No Sichuan banquet is complete without a dose of Sichuan peppercorns. Also known as flower peppers, these fragrant peppercorns have a fruity, citrus flavour and a floral aroma – it might surprise you to learn that the Sichuan pepper actually belongs to the citrus family, rather than the black pepper or chilli pepper families. What really sets this seasoning apart; however, is its mouth-numbing quality, which builds throughout the course of the meal. Use sparingly until you know how much heat you can handle.
Another Sichuan essential ingredient is dried chillies. Where Western cooks might add a chilli or two here and there, Sichuan cooks add dried chillies by the cup-load, like in this recipe for Chongqing chicken. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the Sichuan kitchen.
Before chilli entered the local diet 200-300 years ago, locals added warmth to their meals through a liberal dose of garlic. This fragrant bulb still makes its mark in many Sichuan dishes, such as this Sichuan boiled fish recipe, which calls for 12 cloves of garlic.
Ginger was also prized for its warming qualities in years gone by, and adds a gentle heat to a range of Sichuan dishes. Read more about the warming properties of ginger here, or discover ways to warm up with Chinese ingredients.
From stir-fries to garnishing, spring onions add flavour and colour to all manner of Sichuan specialties.
Known as douban jiang or toban sauce, this pungent seasoning is made from fermented broad beans, chilli and salt. Some varieties also include garlic for added punch. It’s a must-have when creating Sichuan dishes such as ma po tofu.
To balance out all that heat and spice, Sichuan cooks are big fans of black vinegar, also known as chinkiang. Add a splash to these Sichuan red oil wontons.
Other essential spices in Sichuan cuisine include star anise, fennel, cinnamon and clove, adding warmth and sweetness to braises and soups.
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