After reading our food lover’s guide to Sichuan cuisine, you may be forgiven for thinking 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.
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. Why not try this authentic Sichuan recipe for fish-flavoured eggplant to tame the flame?
Some of Sichuan’s spiciest dishes are served cold, such as this 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.
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.
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.
To test out these cooling tips, try six mouth-tingling Sichuan main courses.
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