Happy New year! We`ll kick start this year continuing our series on the 8 different types of Chinese cuisine so this week let us introduce you to Sichuan cuisine.
Sichuan has been known as the “heavenly country,” or the land of plenty since ancient times due to its abundance of food and natural resources. As a unique style of food, Sichuan cuisine was already famous more than 800 years ago during the Southern Song Dynasty when Sichuan restaurants were opened in Lin’an, now called Hangzhou, its capital city. It is known worldwide for their very spicy dishes, although a typical meal includes some more mild options to cool the palate.
While the Sichuan province does not have seafood, it produces abundant domestic animals, poultry, freshwater fish and crayfish. Back into three kingdoms, Sichuan area was the kingdom of Shu (蜀国), located in the southwest part of China and Sichuan people at that time liked to eat sweeter food. Until Jin Dynasty people used ginger, onion, chives and mustard into their cooking and at that time the food was called “pungent food”. Therefore at the very beginning, there is no hot and spicy flavours in Sichuan cuisine but we still can find some dishes that carry the traditional flavor such as boiled pork with mashed garlic (蒜泥白肉).
The “hotness” in Sichuan cuisine came around in 16th century when Portuguese traders brought chili peppers from South America to China and people began to use hot peppers in their daily cooking. Gradually with the development of Sichuan cuisine the unique character of spicy and numb became more popular in many Sichuan dishes.
Nowadays when flavoring foods, sometimes two or more flavors are combined, and at times hot fire is used to concentrate the extract from the dish to increase the intensity of the flavor, preserve the primary taste of the dish and increase pleasant flavors. Sichuan cuisine tends to use quick – frying, quick stir – frying, dry – braising, and dry – stewing. In quick – frying and quick stir – frying, the food is fried over a hot fire and stirred quickly without using another pan. For example, it takes about one minute to stir – fry liver and kidney to keep it tender, soft, delicious, and fresh.
Finally when you know the basics you can try and make a Sichuan dish for yourself! We encourage you to try out our signature Sichuan style stir fried spicy chicken or order from our Traditional Chinese food menu. So without further ado, let`s get cooking:
For 4 servings you`ll need:
- 1,5 l oil
- 40 small dried chillies
- 6 garlic cloves, crushed
- 6spring onions, cut into batons
- Half a tsp finely ground Sichuan peppercorns, or to taste
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
- 2 tsp Chinkiang vinegar, or to taste
For the marinated Chicken:
- 800 g skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2cm-3cm pieces
- 4 tbsp corn flour
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp Shoaxing wine
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- To marinate the chicken combine all ingredients in a bowl, turn to coat well, and set aside for 5 minutes (can also be refrigerated overnight)
- Heat oil in a large wok over high heat until hot and add chicken in 2 batches, then stir-fry until golden (1-2 minutes).
- Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside. Drain half the oil from the wok, then add dried chillies and toast, stirring occasionally, until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add garlic, spring onions and Sichuan pepper, and toss to combine.
- Return chicken to wok along with soy sauce, Shaoxing wine and vinegar, toss to combine, season to taste and serve with steamed rice.