Represented by the local dishes of Chengdu and Chongqing, Sichuan cuisine is a style of Chinese cuisine originating in the Sichuan Province of southwestern China. As one of China's Four Major Styles of Cooking, Sichuan cuisine features spicy, tongue-numbing, savory, delicious, oily and heavily seasoned flavor. Sichuan cuisine enjoys a time-honored history and is well-reputed home and abroad. In 2010, Chengdu was declared a “City of Gastronomy” by UNESCO Creative Cities Network.
Known as the "heavenly country", Sichuan highlights its abundance of food and natural resources. Therefore, Sichuan cuisine features the well-arranged and enriched seasonings, particularly the use of garlic, ginger, chili peppers, as well as the unique Sichuan prickly ash. All these seasonings create the characteristic pungency and spiciness of Sichuan cuisine.
Why do Sichuan people love spicy food? Sichuan has high humidity and many rainy or overcast days. Hot pepper helps reduce internal dampness, so it was used frequently in dishes, and hot dishes became the norm in Sichuan cuisine. The region's warm, humid climate also necessitates sophisticated food-preservation techniques which include picking, salting, drying and smoking.
The history of Sichuan cuisine can be traced back to the Qin and Han dynasties (221BC-220AD). As a unique style of food, Sichuan cuisine was famous more than 800 years ago during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) when Sichuan restaurants were opened in Lin'an, now called Hangzhou, the capital. In the late Qing Dynasty around 19th century, Sichuan cuisine became a unique local flavor, enjoying the same reputation with Shandong, Guangdong (Canton) and Huaiyang cuisines.
Statistics show that the number of Sichuan dishes has surpassed 5,000. Some representative dishes include Kung Pao Chicken, Mapo Tofu, Fish-flavored Pork Shred, Twice Cooked Pork and Sichuan Hotpot. Although many dishes live up to their spicy reputation, often ignored are the large percentage of recipes that use little or no hot spices at all, including dishes such as Tea Smoked Duck