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Sichuan Cuisine — the Most Popular Cuisine in China

Sichuan Cuisine — the Most Popular Cuisine in China

Written by Kelly PangUpdated Dec. 29, 2021

Sichuan province is the birthplace of many dishes that are well-received globally. Sichuan food, originated from the Southwestern region of China, is the most widely served cuisine in China itself. The dishes of Sichuan cuisine are known for their deep and rich flavours, especially the taste of Sichuan pepper which is rare in other regional cuisines.

Sichuan Cuisine

Flavors of Sichuan Cuisine — hot and spicy

Sichuan cuisine holds a reputation for its variety of seasonings used, as each dish requires different cooking methods. As the saying goes, 'one dish with one flavor, with one hundred dishes come hundred flavors.'

Sichuan food is most well-known for its hot and spicy flavor, though it may sport sweet and sour flavors too. The most commonly used spices you can find in most households and eateries are "The Five Fragrances" which consist of fennel, pepper, aniseed, cinnamon, and clove; chili and Sichuan pepper.

Seasonings of Sichuan Cuisine

Dry Red ChilisDried chili peppers, one of the most common seasonings of Sichuan cuisine.

Sichuan cuisine cannot do without Sichuan pepper, black pepper, chili, broad bean chili paste, shallots, ginger, and garlic. These are must-have seasonings that bring out the intense flavors the dishes are renowned for.

The other fresh produce used range widely from pork to beef, fish, vegetables, and even tofu.

Cooking Methods

The cooking methods of Sichuan cuisine vary according to texture and bite required for each specific dish. The array of cooking methods include stir-frying, steaming, braising, baking, and the most popular of which is fast-frying.

The Most Famous Sichuan Dishes

Mapo tofuMapo tofu

Featuring a good combination of flavors, some of the most Sichuan dishes are these six:

1. 'Pockmarked Granny' Bean Curd (Mapo Tofu)

Mapo (/maa-por/) tofu is bean curd served in a chili-and-bean-based sauce — usually a thin, oily, and bright red suspension — and often topped with minced meat; pork or beef. 

Seasonings include water chestnuts, onions, other vegetables, or wood ear fungus. 

The taste of mapo tofu is fittingly described as numbing, spicy-hot, fresh, tender and soft, aromatic and flaky. Mapo tofu is not exclusive to Sichuan province and is easy to find outside of China. Learn more on How to Cook Mapo Bean Curd.

2. Spicy Diced Chicken (Kung Pao Chicken)

Kung Pao ChickenKung Pao chicken

Kung Pao Chicken is its Cantonese name, and read as Gongbao Jiding (宫保鸡丁 /gong-baow jee-ding/ 'Palace-Protected Chicken Cubes') in Mandarin.

The dish is prepared by frying diced chicken and dry red pepper with golden peanuts. Spicy diced chicken is more popular among Westerners than its counterpart mapo tofu. This is because it is usually less spicy, or not at all, when served abroad and outside Sichuan province. Learn how to cook Kung Pao Chicken.

3. Fuqi Fei Pian ('Husband and Wife Lung Slices')

Fuqi Fei Pian, the brainchild of Guo Zhaohua, is made of thinly sliced beef (or bovine lung or tongue) seasoned with chili oil. 

Like the name suggests, there is a story behind this famous Sichuan dish...

Zhaohua and his wife sold their vinegar-ized beef slices for a living by trundling a small cart along the streets. As their beef slices were aromatic and delicious, no one could resist visiting their stall. In honor of the couple, patrons coined the name — Husband and Wife Lung Slices.

4. Sichuan Hot Pot

Sichuan hotpotSichuan hotpot

Sichuan hotpot, like most of the cuisine in this humid and populous province, is numbingly spicy. The broth is flavored with chili peppers and other strong-tasting herbs and spices.

The main ingredients include hot pepper, Chinese crystal sugar, and wine. Slices of kidney, chicken breast, beef tripe, goose intestines, spring onion, soy bean sprouts, mushrooms, duck, and sea cucumber are the usual meats used in the dish. Learn more about Hot Pot.

5. Dandan Mian (Dandan Noodles)

Dandan noodles is yet another quintessential Sichuan dish that has received international attention and hence may come in different versions. 

Unlike the usually watered down ones outside Sichuan, dandan noodles in Sichuan province embody a combustion of flavors — savoury, nutty, spicy, and smoky. The noodles are drenched in chili oil with vegetables, Sichuan pepper, and minced pork served on top.

6. Ganbian Sijidou (Dry Stir Fried Green Beans)

There has been a misconception about this dish being oily and heavy. However, when done right in Sichuan province, the stir-fried green beans are supposed to be light and crunchy. Also known as snap beans or string beans, the beans are prepared with the cooking technique "dry-frying" where lesser oil is needed and a longer frying time required. This dehydrates the beans, creating a crispy outer layer.

The beans are subsequently tossed sufficiently in chili-flavored oil, Sichuan pepper, scallions, garlic, and ginger.

Best Places to Eat Authentic Sichuan Cuisine in Sichuan and Chongqing

Chen MapoChen Mapo Restaurant in Chengdu

Sichuan food is famous in China and abroad, and served at every corner of the world. However, the most authentic Sichuan food is still to be found at its hometowns: Chengdu and Chongqing.

Chen Mapo

Chinese name: 陈麻婆川菜馆

Address: 8-10 Qinghua Street, Qingyang District, Chengdu青羊区青华路8-10号

Huang Cheng Lao Ma

Chinese name: 皇城老妈

Address: 20 Qintai Rd, Qingyang District, Chengdu, 成都青羊区琴台路20号

Waipoqiao Hotpot Restaurant

Chinese name: 外婆桥酒菜作坊

Address: 7F, Daduhui Square, 68 Zourong Lu, Yuzhong District, Chongqing, 重庆市渝中区邹容路68号大都会广场7楼

Sichuan Dishes Menu

English Chinese Pronunciation Characters
Sichuan Hotpot Sìchuān huǒguō srr-chwan hwor-gwor 四川火锅
Husband and Wife Lung Slices (slices of beef and offal seasoned with chili oil) fūqī fèi piàn foo-chee fay pyen 夫妻肺片
Water Boiled Beef shuǐ zhǔ niúròu shway joo nyoh-roh 水煮牛肉
Fish Flavored Beef Shreds yú xiāng niúròu sī yoo sshyang nyoh-roh srr 鱼香牛肉丝
Fried Bean Curd and Beef with Cayenne Pepper (very spicy) málà tàng maa-laa tung 麻辣烫
Boiled Mutton fèiténg yángròu fay-tnng yang-roh 沸腾羊肉
Twice Cooked Pork huí guō ròu hway gwor roh 回锅肉
Steamed Pork with Spicy Cabbage dōngcài kòuròu dong-tseye koh-roh 冬菜扣肉
Dandan Noodles dàndànmiàn dan-dan-myen 担担面
Kung Pao Chicken (diced chicken fried With peanuts/cashews) gōngbǎo jī dīng gong-baoww jee ding 宫保鸡丁
Chongqing Spicy Deep-Fried Chicken Chóngqìng làzǐ jī chong-ching laa-zrr jee 重庆辣子鸡
Sesame Oil Chicken máyóu jī maa-yoh jee 麻油鸡
Duck Hotpot (the hotpot is divided into two parts: one spicy, one plain) yuānyāng huǒguō ywen-yang hwor-gwor 鸳鸯火锅
Boiled Fish with Pickled Chinese Cabbage suāncài yú swann-tseye yoo 酸菜鱼
Dongpo Cuttlefish dōngpō mòyú dong-por mor-yoo 东坡墨鱼
Stir-Fried Bean Curd in Chili Sauce mápó dòufu maa-por doh-foo 麻婆豆腐
Dry Stir Fried Green Beans gānbiān sìjìdòu gan-byen srr-jee-doh 干煸四季豆

Travel with China Highlights and Taste Authentic Sichuan Cuisine

DinningOur customers enjoying their dinner with our colleague Kim at a restaurant in Guilin.

To have a taste of authentic Sichuan food, our tours can take you to some of the best local restaurants. Our Chengdu tours combine must-see attractions in Chengdu with meals in carefully selected restaurants.

Recommended Chinese food tour:

12-Day Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu, Guilin, and Hong Kong Cuisine tour — explore the most popular destinations in China and savor local Chinese food in each city.

Or you can contact us and we can also tailor-make a Chinese food tour for you. Let us know your interests and requirements.

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