Sichuan (or Szechwan/Szechuan) Cuisine is wildly popular, but UNLESS, you have a real penchant for spicy food it might not be the first place to start your culinary adventures. I mean real spicy. Once you have been here a while you’ll probably grow more and more accustomed to spicy food and really start to love Sichuan Cuisine.
Sichuan Province is famous for it’s mouth numbing spicy food and liberal use of chilli and pepper. The Sichuan pepper comes in red and green varieties, most common is the red type, note that this type of pepper comes from the Prickly Ash tree common in Sichuan. Chilli is the red chilli, mostly used in dried form, and there’s lots of it. A famous dish and one that’s quite popular at the moment is Dry Hot Pot or Ganguo (干锅) which hails from the Chongqing area of Sichuan. It’s similar to the soup based hot pot, except, there’s no soup.
It’s served hot, in a big bowl that’s shared among everyone. There’s a wooden spatula for mixing it around and distributing the flavors, as you’ll find as you get towards the bottom of the dish the spicier it will be.
Ingredients include vegetables such as lotus root, tofu, vegetable noodles, yam, carrot, onion, bamboo, mushrooms, bok choy and more. Spices include peppercorns, chilli and cumin to name a few.
If you find yourself at a Sichuan restaurant with friends and one these bowls is set down on the table and you find it too hot, simply fill a bowl with tea and wash the spice off before eating each piece with your chopstick.
There’s numerous recipes and its that’s really only limited by what you like, whats available and your own imagination. Here’s an example recipe:
Sichuan Dry Hot Pot with Ribs recipe
Ribs , soy sauce , cooking wine , sugar, Sichuan Chili Bean Paste (Pixian brand is popular) , dried chili , pepper ,star anise , cumin , ginger, onions, garlic, lotus root , sichuan red pepper , green onion, small bamboo shoots , mushrooms
1 Wash and drain 750 g ribs, chopped into one inch pieces, and then with 1.5 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of cooking wine, a little sugar, ginger 2 teaspoon, minced garlic 1 teaspoon, 1/4 cup diced green onion and marinate for 2 hours.
2 slice the lotus root, chop chili, chop some more onion (1/2 cup), 3-4 slices of ginger,
4-5 garlic cloves, slice.
3 Heat wok, add 2 tablespoons oil, fry the marinated ribs.
Add ginger, garlic, half the onion, 1-2 tablespoons of chilli bean paste, 2 star anise, chili and pepper to taste, 1 teaspoon cumin stir evenly together.
4 add a splash of wine and hot water, cover the pot and simmer for 10 minutes to soften the ribs.
5 add 1 tablespoon oil, add lotus root, onions, peppers and bamboo shoots and fry.
6 add a little soy sauce, sugar and a splash of cooking wine, stir evenly cover and stew for 3-5 minutes, add mushrooms together, stir fry for another 2-3 minutes.
7 stir until sauce is basically dry, turn off the heat, and sprinkle with remaining green onions (or parsley) and you’re done.
You’ll notice something about Chinese recipes, there’s little measuring, it’s mostly by feel.