Qiqi Chen: Sichuan Cuisine

Sichuan cuisine is known for its bold flavors of pungency, spiciness, and numbness with the liberal use of garlic, chili peppers and Sichuan pepper. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization named Chengdu as the City of Gastronomy in 2011 to recognize its sophistication in its cooking. The following are some of the cuisine I absolutely love in Chengdu and would recommend others to try during their stay here.

Sichuan Hot Pot (四川火锅)

  • The meal itself is served with a basic stock base with water, salt and Sichuan peppers. There is a huge variety of ingredients that could be cooked in the pot, with meat and seafood being the main option.

Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐)

  • As the name suggest, this is a tofu dish mixed with spicy chili, bean sauce, fermented black beans and minced meat (with the option of pork or beef). This dish usually contains plenty of Sichuan pepper, just like the hot pot. If one cannot handle the numbness, they have the option to tell the owner to make the dish mild.

Kung Pao Chicken (宫保鸡丁)

  • This is a chicken dish made with chicken cut into small cubes, peanuts, vegetables, and chili peppers stir-fried with spicy sauce. I first had this dish during the welcoming party and had since been in love with the flavors.  It goes with rice.

Spicy Deep-fried Chicken (辣子鸡)

  • This is also a chicken dish. It consists of marinated deep-fried pieces of chicken stir-fried with garlic, ginger, and chili peppers. Just like Kung Pao Chicken, this dish goes really well with a big bowl of rice.

Dan Dan Noodles (担担面)

  • Dan dan noodles is a dish served with spicy sauce, preserved vegetables, chili oil, Sichuan pepper, minced pork, and scallions. The name originated from street vendors carrying the noodle in two baskets over the shoulder with a carrying pole, with the word “dan dan” representing the carrying pole.

Tea-Smoked Duck (樟茶鸭)

  • As the name indicates, this is a dish where the marinated duck is being smoked over tea leaves and twigs. I first had this dish the first day I arrived in Chengdu eating out with my new roommate in a land I used to not be familiar with.

Twice-Cooked Pork (回锅肉)

  • Twice-cooked pork is also called “return pot meat”. This is a dish where the pork is simmered, sliced and stir fried with vegetables. This is the dish my roommate had the first time we went out to eat. She told me this dish is also known as Chinese bacon.

There are only three more weeks of school left in Chengdu.  Other than the friends I have made here, I know that I won’t be able to forget the cuisine either. And now that I know the Chinese food in the States is nothing like how it really is, it will be hard ordering for Chinese takeout once I get back.

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