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.
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
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.
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
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 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 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
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.
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
|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|
|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
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.