What is a Szechuan Cuisine?
Szechuan cuisine is a style of regional Chinese food that is common to the Szechuan Province in southwestern China. Szechuan may also be spelled Sichuan or Szechwan, and its cuisine is now popular in restaurants all over the world. This cuisine is known for its pungent, spicy flavors. Vinegar, which is used to preserve meats and vegetables in the winter, is also an important flavor component. Stir frying, steaming and braising are the most common techniques used in the preparation of Szechuan cuisine.
Szechuan Province gets its name from four tributaries of the Yangtze River: the Min, the Tuo, the Fou and the Jailing. The surrounding mountain ranges form a large basin, which is well-irrigated by the four rivers and provides good conditions for the cultivation of rice. Within Szechuan Province, there are many regional cuisines, including Chengdu, Zidong and Chongqing. The vegetarian cuisine preferred by Buddhists represents another type of Szechuan cuisine.
Fiery chili peppers and Szechuan peppercorns add the characteristic spiciness to Szechuan cuisine. Other distinctive flavoring agents include ginger, garlic and sesame oil. Star anise is used as a spice in many Szechuan dishes, and peanuts are also a common component. Soy sauce, chili garlic sauce and the salty, spicy black bean sauce known as doubanjiang are often used to flavor Szechuan food.
Szechuan beef, stir-fried with red chili peppers and soy sauce, is perhaps Szechuan cuisine’s most well-known dish. Spicy kung pao chicken with diced vegetables and peanuts is another Szechuan favorite. Twice-cooked pork, tea-smoked duck and ma-po tofu in black bean sauce are also included on many Szechuan menus.
Until 1997, Chongqing, one of China’s four provincial-level municipalities, was part of Szechuan Province. Chongqing cuisine is known not only for all the Szechuan favorites, but also for one of its own. Chongqing is famous for its fire pots, which feature a cauldron of simmering broth served with skewered meats and seafood. Diners cook the skewered ingredients in the spicy broth, which is then used to cook vegetables and noodles for a savory soup at the end of the meal.
Szechuan cuisine also is known for three distinctive sauces. Yuxiang sauce is made with stir-fried ginger, garlic and scallions combined with black bean doubanjiang sauce. Guaiwei sauce is a combination of sesame oil, rice vinegar and soy sauce spiced with Szechuan peppercorns. Mala sauce is also made with doubianjiang, seasoned with chili peppers, Szechuan peppercorns and garlic.
I love Szechuan cuisine. What I love the most is that they have great recipes for shrimp which is my favorite food. Szechuan spicy shrimp noodle soup, shrimp stir-fry and shrimp skewers -- they are all so yummy!
Szechuan region is known for its rice but they've also got some great noodles, which is just one more reason to love this cuisine. It's definitely my favorite of all Asian cuisines.
@ddljohn-- But isn't that a significant difference and uniqueness of Szechuan cuisine itself? This cuisine does use spices more than some other Chinese cuisines. And there are lots o hot dishes. In fact, some Szechuan dishes are fiery hot and I love them for this reason. I also don't think that the use of nuts in stir-fries is all that common in other regional cuisines.
What this cuisine has that others don't have foremost is Szechuan peppers and black vinegar. Both of these give distinct flavors to Szechuan dishes. Chinese chili oil and five spice powder are also used often and add even more layers to the flavors.
Of course, there are also dishes in Szechuan that are much like some other Chinese cuisines. Not all of the stir-fires, soups, wantons and veggies are super spicy. Some are on the blander side, so I think that Szechuan cuisine has something to offer for everyone. Those who are not too fond of hot and spicy flavors don't need to get scared.
I'm not too familiar with the different regional Chinese cuisines. But I love Chinese food in general and frequent Chinese restaurants. I can't really tell too much of a difference between Szechuan cuisine and Chinese dishes from other regions. They're all mostly stir-fries with a variety of vegetables, meats and sauces. Onions and garlic are used often. The only difference may be the spices used in Szechuan dishes and maybe the hotness due to use of chilies.
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