Sichuan Cuisine – Most Popular Cuisine in China

Sichuan cuisine, or Szechuan cuisine and Chuan cuisine, is one of the eight Chinese cuisines popular in Sichuan and Chongqing area, even globally and it has the largest market share in China. Sichuan cuisine dishes are featured with hot, spicy and fish-flavor taste, colorful appearance, abundant using of seasonings especially pepper and prickly ashes and various cooking methods. Sichuan hot pot, Ma Po Tofu, Kung Pao Chicken, Sliced Beef and Ox Organs in Chili Sauce, Sliced Pork in Hot Chili Oil are the famous and representative Sichuan cuisine dishes.

Chinese Name: 川菜 chuān cài
English Names: Sichuan cuisine, Szechuan cuisine, Chuan cuisine
Popular in: Sichuan Province, Chongqing
Flavors: hot and spicy, numb, sour and spicy, fish flavor
Famous Sichuan Dishes: Kung Pao Chicken, Ma Po Tofu, Twice Cooked Pork, Sichuan Hot Pot
Famous Snacks: Dandan Noodles, Chaoshou, Bean Jelly, Spicy Rabbit Head

Sichuan Cuisine

History of Sichuan Cuisine since Qin Dynasty

The origin of Sichuan cuisine can be traced back to Qin Dynasty (221 - 207 BC). From Qin to Jin Dynasty (265 - 420 AD), some cooking methods and dishes have been created in Ba and Shu area, today’s Sichuan and Chongqing area. During the Sui Dynasty (581 - 618 AD) and Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD), the number of Sichuan food restaurants and cellars increased in the Ba and Shu area. The cooking technology had advanced a lot. In Song Dynasty (960 - 1279 AD), Sichuan food had formed its own unique style, distinguished from other cuisines and gradually spread to areas outside the Ba and Shu area. Pepper was introduced into China in the late Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 AD) and the early Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 AD) and used in Sichuan cuisine. It enriched the flavor of Sichuan cuisine dishes and new dishes as then invented, which is regarded as the beginning of the modern Sichuan cuisine. Later, more kinds of peppers were added to Sichuan cuisine recipes, gradually forming the hot and spicy feature of modern Sichuan cuisine.

Features of Sichuan Cuisine – Hot & Spicy

Most Sichuan cuisine dishes are hot and spicy. The two deep flavors are from the abundant using of seasonings including hot pepper, hot peppercorn, Sichuan pepper, prickly ashes, broad bean chili paste, ginger and garlic, which are all pungent, spicy and hot. Among them the broad bean paste is known as the soul of Chuan dishes, while the hot pepper and Sichuan pepper are the soul of it. 

Why do Sichuan people eat hot pepper and chili so much? The local climate is humid. Eating the pepper and chili can help the blood of the body flow quickly in a short time, thus the humidity in body is easily discharged. Girls in Sichuan and Chongqing also believe eating peppers gives them better skin.

Actually, Sichuan cuisine is not only hot and spicy. Totally Sichuan cuisine dishes has 24 flavors which can be roughly divided into 3 major categories. The first and the most popular is hot & spicy mentioned above, with the representative dishes of hot pot, Ma Po Tofu and so on. The second is pungent & aromatic of which dishes are always with a hint of garlic and ginger. The third is sweet & sour, and Fish-Flavored Shredded Pork is the representative dish.

Special Cooking Techniques

There are over 20 main cooking techniques to make Sichuan food: stir-frying, flash-frying, quick-frying, pan-frying, deep-frying, dry stir frying, sautéing, scalding, boiling, instant boiling, quick boiling, braising, smoking, simmering, stewing in soy sauce, steaming, pickling, roasting, dressing, crisp frying with syrup and so on. Stir-frying is the most typical one, featured with short cooking time, high fire and the cooked dishes taste fresh and tender with less juice.

Notable Dishes in Sichuan Cuisine

Kung Pao Chicken

A famous traditional Sichuan chicken dish known in globe. The main ingredients are chicken breast and chili, and the chopped green onion and peanuts are also added. The cooking method applied is flash-frying.

Ma Po Tofu

The chopped meat is fried with broad-bean sauce, red chili and many other seasonings, and then the tender and smooth tofu is add and fried. The finished dish is bright red and the tofu tastes tender and spicy.

Fish-Flavored Shredded Pork

 It is a salty, slightly spicy and sweet dish. Although named fish flavored pork slices, fish is not the ingredient. The main material is pork loin. The fish flavor comes from the perfect combination of salt, sugar and starchy water.


Sliced Beef and Ox Organs in Chili Sauce

Sliced Beef and Ox Organs in Chili Sauce

A cold Szechuan beef dish invented by a couple. It is made of beef, oxtongue, and beef tripe. It tastes spicy and pungent. The spicy and red sauce is mainly made of red chili oil, pepper oil and spices like Chinese cinnamon and star anise.


Sliced Pork in Hot Chili Oil

Sliced Pork in Hot Chili Oil

The pork slices are first boiled and added into red sauce made of thick bean paste and red chili and then topped with hot oil. The pork slices are tender and go well with rice. The pork slices can also be replaces with fish slices.

Sichuan Hot Pot

The soul of hot pot is the soup base made of various condiments and seasonings. Almost all food materials can be boiled in it, and the dipping sauce mainly made of sesame oil and garlic gives the boiled materials a rich flavor.


Read More:
12 Most Popular Sichuan Foods – Have you ever tried?

10 Must-Try Sichuan Dishes

15 Special Sichuan Noodles

Sichuan Cuisine Menu

English Chinese Pinyin
Kung Pao Chicken 宫保鸡丁 gōng bǎo jī dīng
Ma Po Tofu 麻婆豆腐 má pó dòu fu
Fish-Flavored Shredded Pork     鱼香肉丝 yú xiāng ròu sī
Sliced Pork in Hot Chili Oil 水煮肉片 shuǐ zhǔ ròu piàn
Sliced Beef and Ox Organs in Chili Sauce 夫妻肺片 fū qī fèi piàn
Sichuan Hot Pot 四川火锅 sì chuān huǒ guō
Twice Cooked Pork 回锅肉 huí guō ròu
Braised Dongpo Pork Hock with Brown Sauce 东坡肘子 dōng pō zhǒu zi
Beggar’s Chicken 叫花鸡 jiào huā jī
Fried Pork with Salted Pepper 盐煎肉 yán jiān ròu
Duck Blood in Chili Sauce 毛血旺 máo xuè wàng
Boiled Fish with Pickled Cabbage and Chili 酸菜鱼 suān cài yú
Chicken Feet with Pickled Peppers 泡椒凤爪 pào jiāo fèng zhuǎ
Steamed Chicken with Chili Sauce 口水鸡 kǒu shuǐ jī
Dandan Noodles 担担面 dàndàn miàn

Best Sichuan Cuisine Restaurants in China

 Chong De Li
Chinese name: 崇德里 chóng dé lǐ
Address: No. 1, Jinjiang Road, Chengdu

 Xiao Long Kan Hot Pot
Chinese name: 小龙坎火锅 xiǎo lóng kǎn huǒ guō
Address: No. 54, North Kehuabei Road, Wuhou District, Chengdu

 Xiao Bin Lou
Chinese name: 小滨楼 xiǎo bīn lóu
Address: No. 89, Minquan Road, Yuzhong District, Chongqing

 Zhang Ma Ma
Chinese name: 张妈妈特色川菜馆 zhāng mā mā tè sè chuān cài guǎn
Address: No. 76, South Street, An Ding Men, Dongcheng District, Beijing
See more Sichuan Restaurants in Beijing

 Yu Xin Sichuan Dishes
Chinese name: 渝信川菜 yú xìn chuān cài
Address: No. 399, Jiujiang Road, Huangfu District, Shanghai
See more Sichuan Restaurants in Shanghai

3 Major Styles of Sichuan Cuisine

The three major styles are Shanghebang, Xiaohebang and Xiahebang. Shanghebang dishes mainly refers to Chengdu cuisine and Leshan cuisine in Sichuan, which are characterized by its rich seasonings, relatively light taste, and traditional dishes. Xiaohebang dish is originated from south Sichuan including Zigong, Yibin, Luzhou and Neijiang, which is characterized by its deep and rich taste. Xiahebang is represented by Chongqing Jianghu cuisine and Wanzhou dishes served in big bowls. The three together form the three mainstream local flavors of Sichuan food, representing the highest level of Sichuan cuisine.

 Read more about Sichuan Cuisine Museum

- Last updated on Nov. 04, 2022 -
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