As one of the Eight Famous Cuisines in China, Sichuan (or ‘Szechuan’) food has gained its popularity around the country for its unique style: pungent, spicy, full of exciting flavours. As a matter of fact, more and more gourmets outside of China are getting hooked on dishes from the Sichuan cuisine as well.
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We have selected for you a list of 8 original and legendary Sichuan dishes that are definitely worth to try in a Szechuan restaurant. We’ve even included video recipes in case you want to give it a try in your own kitchen.
1. Twice Cooked Pork (Hui Guo Rou, 回锅肉)
When it comes to Sichuan food, Twice Cooked Pork is arguably the king of Sichuan dishes. This dish originated from sacrifices: The pork that was offered to spirits and people’s ancestors was brought back after the ceremony. Then it was cooked for the second time, that’s how the dish got its interesting name.
In modern times, the pork belly is often used to cook this this. That’s because the belly fat is packed with flavour. I still recall the first time I had it when I was little; it smelled amazing! And the pork looked fat but didn’t taste greasy. Usually the pork is boiled with spices first, then stir-fried with green garlic and bean sauce.
Here’s an excellent demonstration of how you can cook this delicious dish yourself:
2. Kung Pao Chicken (Gong Bao Ji Ding, 宫保鸡丁)
It’s definitely one of the most well-known Sichuan dishes and also known as Szechuan Chicken. The main ingredients are chicken breast, deep-fried peanuts and dried chili pepper. Imagine the tender chicken combined with crispy peanuts, yum! The flavour is sweet, savoury, and a little spicy. It’s just perfect to go with a bowl of white rice.
Find the easy recipe video below:
3. Ma Po Tofu (Ma Po Dou Fu, 麻婆豆腐)
Mapo tofu was created by a restaurant owner in Chengdu about 150 years ago. Mapo literally means “pock-marked older lady” due to the pock-marks on the face of the restaurant owner. The main ingredients include tofu, minced meat, bean paste, and Sichuan peppercorns. This dish looks simple, but it has complex flavours and textures: pungent, spicy, with tender tofu cubes and crispy minced meat. Very tasty.
In the video below Angel Wong shows you how to cook an authentic Mapo Tofu:
4. Pork Lungs in Chili Sauce ( Fu Qi Fei Pian, 夫妻肺片)
The name of this cold dish means “husband and wife lung slice” in Chinese, sounds a bit scary! But not to worry, it’s just ox entrails, and rarely with pork lungs. In the 1930s, a couple who was selling entrails on the street made this dish super popular among the locals in Chengdu with their secret recipe. The entrails are finely sliced, marinated with hot chili oil Sichuan peppercorn powder. I was hesitant to try when my friend ordered this dish , but eventually I tried it as a challenge. Now I order it as an appetizer each time I have Sichuan food, delicious!
Well cooking this dish might be easy, but you’ll need specifically ask for pork lungs at your local butcher. If will sell it to you for the price of cheap sausages. If you’re lucky you might get them for free. Here’s a recipe video (sorry for the fact that it’s in Chinese, but it’s absolutely the best video recipe):
5. Dongpo Pig Knuckle (Dong Po Zhou Zi, 东坡肘子)
Dongpo Pig Knuckle is named after famous Sichuan poet Su Dongpo from Song Dynasty, but it was actually invented by Su’s wife. It’s first boiled and then simmered for 3 hours with various cooking ingredients – in total 17 of them in the original recipe! The meat is so soft that could melt in the mouth, hearty and comforting.
Here’s a simplified recipe that you can actually cook at home:
6. Poached Beef in Hot Sauce (Shui Zhu Niu Rou, 水煮牛肉)
This is another common Sichuan dish. It’s prepared with pre-marinated fresh beef and multiple ingredients like ginger, garlic, Sichuan peppercorns, cooking wine, broth and chili oil. With its bright-coloured appearance and alluring smell, the tasty tender beef slices paired with numbingly spicy broth deliver a wonderful sensation. Meat lovers would definitely find this rich-flavoured dish satisfying.
Here’s a demonstration!
7. Fish-Flavoured Shredded Pork (Yu Xiang Rou Si, 鱼香肉丝)
Despite the name, this scrumptious dish actually doesn’t contain any fish. The fish flavour comes from the combination of the ingredients and seasonings like pickled chili, spring onion, ginger, garlic, black fungus, sugar, soy sauce, Sichuan bean paste, bamboo shoots, etc. Shredded pork tenderloin is stir-fried with all the ingredients, and then mixed with its special sauce. The taste is savory, fresh, sweet and sour, can easily work up an appetite.
See below the recipe video:
8. Fish Soup with Sichuan Pickles (Suan Cai Yu, 酸菜鱼)
Originated from Chongqing region, you can now see this dish in almost every Sichuan restaurant. Grass carp or black carp are usually used for this dish, cooked with aged pickled mustard greens, spices and broth. The fish fillets are delicate and silky; the soup is spicy with a nice vinegary tang, but not overpowering. Try putting noodles into the soup, it’s surprisingly good!