Szechuan cuisine

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Szechuan cuisine, Sichuan cuisine, or Szechwan cuisine (/ˈsɛʃwɒn/ or /ˈsɛwɒn/;[1] Chinese: 四川菜; pinyin: Sìchuān cài or Chinese: 川菜; pinyin: Chuān cài) is a style of Chinese cuisine originating from Sichuan province in southwestern China. It has bold flavours, particularly the pungency and spiciness resulting from liberal use of garlic and chili peppers, as well as the unique flavor of the Sichuan pepper. There are many local variations within Sichuan province and the Chongqing municipality, which was part of Sichuan until 1997. Four sub-styles include Chongqing, Chengdu, Zigong, and Buddhist vegetarian style.[2]

UNESCO declared Chengdu to be a city of gastronomy in 2011 in order to recognize the sophistication of its cooking.[3]


Sichuan is colloquially known as the "heavenly country" due to its abundance of food and natural resources. One ancient Chinese account declared that the "people of Sichuan uphold good flavor, and they are fond of hot and spicy taste."[4] Most Szechuan dishes are spicy, although a typical meal includes non-spicy dishes to cool the palate. According to at least one Chinese culinary writer,[who?] Szechuan cuisine is composed of seven basic flavours: sour, pungent, hot, sweet, bitter, aromatic, and salty. Szechuan food is divided into five different types: sumptuous banquet, ordinary banquet, popularised food, household-style food, and food snacks. Szechuan cuisine has changed little over the years, and milder versions of Sichuan dishes remain a staple of American Chinese cuisine.[4]


A chilli hot pot characteristic of Szechuan cuisine

Szechuan cuisine often contains food preserved through pickling, salting, and drying and is generally spicy owing to heavy application of chili oil. The Sichuan pepper (Chinese: 花椒; pinyin: huājiāo; literally: "flower pepper") is commonly used. Sichuan pepper has an intensely fragrant, citrus-like flavour and produces a "tingly-numbing" (Chinese: ; pinyin: ) sensation in the mouth. Also common are garlic, chili peppers, ginger, star anise and other spicy herbs, plants and spices. Broad bean chili paste (simplified Chinese: 豆瓣酱; traditional Chinese: 豆瓣醬; pinyin: dòubànjiàng) is also a staple seasoning in Szechuan cuisine. The region's cuisine has also been the source of several prominent sauces widely used in Chinese cuisine in general today, including yuxiang (魚香), mala (麻辣), and guaiwei (怪味).

Common preparation techniques in Szechuan cuisine include stir frying, steaming and braising, but a complete list would include more than 20 distinct techniques.

Beef is somewhat more common in Szechuan cuisine than it is in other Chinese cuisines, perhaps due to the prevalence of oxen in the region.[5] Stir-fried beef is often cooked until chewy, while steamed beef is sometimes coated with rice flour to produce a very rich gravy. Szechuan cuisine also utilizes various bovine and porcine organs as ingredients such as intestine, arteries, the head, tongue, skin, and liver in addition to other commonly utilised portions of the meat.

Rabbit meat is also much more popular in Sichuan than elsewhere in China, with the Sichuan Basin region (Sichuan Province and Chongqing) estimated to consumer some 70% of China's rabbit meat consumption.[6]

Notable dishes[edit]

A Chengdu-style, Sichuan hot pot stew

Although many dishes live up to their spicy reputation, there are a large percentage of recipes that use little or no hot spices at all, including dishes such as tea smoked duck.

EnglishTraditional ChineseSimplified ChinesePinyinNotes
Kung Pao chicken宮保雞丁宫保鸡丁gōngbǎo jīdīng
Tea smoked duck樟茶鴨樟茶鸭zhāngchá yā
Twice cooked pork回鍋肉回锅肉huíguōròu
Mapo Tofu麻婆豆腐麻婆豆腐mápó dòufǔ
Yu Xiang Rou Si魚香肉絲鱼香肉丝yuxiang rousi
Sichuan hotpot四川火鍋四川火锅Sìchuān huǒguō
Fuqi feipian夫妻肺片夫妻肺片fūqī fèipiànCold beef tripe
Spicy deep-fried chicken辣子雞辣子鸡làzǐjī
Water cooked dishes水煮水煮shuǐzhǔ
Dan dan noodles擔擔麵担担面dàndàn miàn
Bon bon chicken棒棒雞棒棒鸡bàngbàng jī

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Szechuan." at Merriam-Webster Online.
  2. ^ Fuchsia Dunlop. Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003; ISBN 0393051773).
  3. ^ UNESCO (2011). "Chengdu: UNESCO City of Gastronomy". UNESCO. Retrieved May 26, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b 傅培梅 (2005). Mei Pei Featured Dishes (CH: 培梅名菜精選: 川浙菜專輯). 橘子文化事業有限公司. p. 9. 
  5. ^ Tropp, Barbara (1982). The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking. New York: Hearst Books. p. 183. ISBN 0-688-14611-2. 
  6. ^ Olivia Geng, French Rabbit Heads: The Newest Delicacy in Chinese Cuisine. The Wall Street Journal Blog, 2014-06-13

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]