Sichuan cuisine
Chuan cuisine
Geographic extent of Sichuan cuisine

Sichuan cuisine or Sichuanese cuisine, alternatively romanized as Szechwan cuisine or Szechuan cuisine (Chinese: 四川, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: [sɨ̂.ʈʂʰwán] ), is a style of Chinese cuisine originating from Sichuan province and the neighboring Chongqing municipality. Chongqing was formerly a part of Sichuan until 1997; thus, there is a great deal of cultural overlap between the two administrative divisions. There are many regional, local variations of Sichuanese cuisine within Sichuan and Chongqing.

It has bold flavours, particularly the pungency and spiciness resulting from liberal use of garlic and chili peppers, as well as the unique flavour of Sichuan pepper. Some examples are Kung Pao chicken and Yuxiang shredded pork. Four sub-styles of Sichuan cuisine include Chongqing, Chengdu, Zigong and Buddhist vegetarian style.[1]

UNESCO declared Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, to be a city of gastronomy in 2011 to recognise the sophistication of its cooking.[2]


Sichuan in the Middle Ages welcomed Middle Eastern crops, such as broad beans, sesame and walnuts. Since the 16th century, the list of major crops in Sichuan has even been lengthened by New World newcomers. The characteristic chili pepper originally came from Mexico but probably overland from India or by river from Macau, complementing the traditional Sichuan peppercorn (花椒; huājiāo). Other newcomers from the New World included maize (corn), which largely replaced millet; white potatoes introduced by Catholic missions; and sweet potatoes. The population of Sichuan was cut by perhaps three quarters in the wars from the Ming dynasty to the Qing dynasty. Settlers from the adjacent Hunan Province brought their cooking styles with them.[3]

Sichuan is colloquially known as the "heavenly country" due to its abundance of food and natural resources. One ancient Chinese account declared that the "people of Sichuan uphold good flavour, and they are fond of hot and spicy taste." Most Sichuan dishes are spicy, although a typical meal includes non-spicy dishes to cool the palate. Sichuan cuisine is composed of seven basic flavours: sweet, sour, numbing-spicy (like in Sichuan pepper), spicy, bitter, fragrant/aromatic, and salty. Sichuan food is divided into five different types: sumptuous banquet, ordinary banquet, popularised food, household-style food and snacks. Milder versions of Sichuan dishes remain a staple of American Chinese cuisine.[4]

The superior natural resources of Sichuan Province provided plenty natural resources for the development of cooking. The flow of the Yangtze river through Sichuan Province provided nutrients for fundamental foods, spices, and a source of water.[5]


A chili hot pot characteristic of Sichuan cuisine

The complex topography of Sichuan Province, including its mountains, hills, plains, plateaus and the Sichuan Basin, has shaped its food customs with versatile and distinct ingredients.

Abundant rice and vegetables are produced from the fertile Sichuan Basin, whereas a wide variety of herbs, mushrooms and other fungi prosper in the highland regions. Pork is overwhelmingly the most common type of meat consumed.[3] Beef is somewhat more common in Sichuan cuisine than it is in other Chinese cuisines, perhaps due to the prevalence of oxen in the region.[6] Sichuan cuisine also uses various bovine and porcine organs as ingredients, such as intestine, arteries, head, tongue, skin and liver, in addition to other commonly used portions of the meat. Rabbit meat is also much more popular in Sichuan than elsewhere in China. It is estimated that the Sichuan Basin and Chongqing area are responsible for about 70 percent of China's total rabbit meat consumption.[7] Yoghurt, which probably spread from India through Tibet in medieval times, is consumed among the Han Chinese. This is an unusual custom in other parts of the country. The salt produced from Sichuan salt springs and wells, unlike sea salt, does not contain iodine, which led to goiter problems before the 20th century.[3]

Sichuan cuisine often contains food preserved through pickling, salting and drying. Preserved dishes are generally served as spicy dishes with heavy application of chili oil.

Meal styles

The most unique and important spice in Sichuan cuisine is the Sichuan pepper (花椒; huājiāo; 'flower pepper'). Sichuan peppercorn has an intense, fragrant citrus-like flavour and produces a "tingly-numbing" (; ) sensation in the mouth. Other commonly used spices in Sichuan cuisine are garlic, chili peppers, ginger, and star anise.

Broad bean chili paste (豆瓣酱; 豆瓣醬; dòubànjiàng) is one of the most important seasonings.[3] It is an essential component to famous dishes such as Mapo tofu and double-cooked pork slices. Sichuan cuisine is the origin of several prominent sauces/flavours widely used in modern Chinese cuisine, including:

Other examples of mixed flavor including spicy and hot (Mala), fish flavor (Yuxiang), hot and sour, the five spices (Wuxiang; 五香), ginger juice, mashed garlic, sweet and sour, spice salt (Jiaoyan; 椒盐), dried tangerine or orange peel (Chenpi; 陈皮), burnt chili, pot-stewed fowl (Lu; 卤味), odd flavor (Guaiwei; 怪味), and other recombinations of these seasonings.[8]

Common preparation techniques in Sichuan cuisine include stir frying, steaming and braising, but a complete list would include more than 20 distinct techniques.

Dishes of the cuisine

See also: Sichuan cuisine § Notable foods

Notable foods

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English Image Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Pinyin Notes
Ants climbing a tree
螞蟻上樹 蚂蚁上树 mǎyǐ shàng shù So called because the dish has bits of ground meat clinging to noodles, evoking an image of ants climbing a tree [9]
Bon bon chicken
棒棒鷄 / 棒棒雞 棒棒鸡 bàngbàng jī Chicken mixed with dark, toasty sesame sauce. So-called from the sound of the cleavers being hammered into the chicken to shred it. [10]
Braised pork ribs with konjac 魔芋燒排骨 魔芋烧排骨 móyù shāo páigǔ
Chili oil wontons
紅油抄手 红油抄手 hóng yóu chāoshǒu
Dandan noodles
擔擔麵 担担面 dàndàn miàn Originally a Chengdu street snack sold by men with "carrying poles" (dan). [11]
Fish with pickled mustard greens
酸菜魚 酸菜鱼 suān cài yú Shredded chicken breast, pork, or any other meat ingredients can be substituted for the fish fillets.
Fragrant and spicy fish slices
香辣魚片 香辣鱼片 xiāng là yú piàn
Hot and sour noodles
酸辣麵, 酸辣粉 酸辣面, 酸辣粉 suān là miàn, suān là fěn Typically a vegetarian noodle dish primarily made with brassica juncea, vinegar, hot oil, and soy sauce. It has different flavors such as sour, sweet, fragrant, spicy and salty. Commonly is for breakfast but also a popular street snack in Sichuan, Yunnan, and Hubei.
Kung Pao beef tendon 宮保牛筋 宫保牛筋 gōngbǎo niú jīn
Kung Pao chicken
宮保雞丁 宫保鸡丁 gōngbǎo jīdīng Beef or lamb can be substituted for the chicken.
Mao xue wang
毛血旺 毛血旺 máo xuě wàng Traditional dish from Chongqing made from pig's blood, tripe, duck's blood, ham and chicken gizzard. Beansprouts, chili, Sichuan peppercorn, sesame and other spices are often added as seasoning.
Mapo doufu
麻婆豆腐 麻婆豆腐 mápó dòufǔ Literally "pockmarked old woman's tofu". Spicy sauce similar to yuxiang ("in the style of fish") sauce.[12]
Sliced beef/beef tripe/ox tongue in chili sauce
夫妻肺片 夫妻肺片 fūqī fèipiàn Literally "husband and wife lung pieces"
Shredded chicken cold noodles 雞絲涼麵 鸡丝凉面 jī sī liáng miàn
Shredded pork in garlic sauce
魚香肉絲 鱼香肉丝 yúxiāng ròusī Literally "sliced pork with fish aroma"
Sichuan hotpot
四川火鍋 四川火锅 Sìchuān huǒguō Sichuan hotpot, the most famous Chinese hotpot, is one of the representative dishes in Sichuan cuisine and famous for its numb and spicy taste.[13] The tradition may owe itself to the area's high humidity, whereby the locals eat spicy food to remove the moisture from their bodies.[14]
Stir-fried green beans[15]
乾煸四季豆 干煸四季豆 gān biān sìjì dòu Also known as "Dry Fried Green Beans",[16] "Dry Fried String Beans",[17] "Sichuan Style Green Beans",[18] "Szechuan Dry Fried Green Beans",[19] or "Spicy Green Beans"[20]
Spicy deep-fried chicken
辣子雞 辣子鸡 làzǐjī
Tea-smoked duck
樟茶鴨 樟茶鸭 zhāngchá yā
Three-pepper chicken 三椒煸雞 三椒煸鸡 sān jiāo biān jī
Double-cooked pork
回鍋肉 回锅肉 huíguōròu Literally "meat returning to the wok". Fresh pork is first boiled, then fried.[21]
Water-cooked meat
水煮肉 水煮肉 shuǐzhǔ ròu
Steamed sweet pork with sticky rice. 甜燒白 甜烧白 tián shāo bái Fill mashed red beans into sliced pork belly and lay the pork on steamed sweet sticky rice.
Fish-fragrant eggplant
魚香茄子 鱼香茄子 yúxiāng qiézi Steamed eggplant in a sauce commonly used in cooking fish [22]
Shredded chicken salad
Sichuan shredded chicken salad
Sichuan shredded chicken salad
涼拌雞絲 凉拌鸡丝 liáng bàn jī sī Shredded chicken mixed with spicy garlic sauce.
Bo-bo chicken
缽缽雞 钵钵鸡 bǒbǒ jī A kind of cold hot pot filled with vegetables and chicken on wooden sticks, different from Bon bon chicken.
Mala duck tongue
麻辣鴨舌 麻辣鸭舌 málà yā shé Duck tongues stir-fried with Sichuan pepper and chili
Stir-fried chicken kidney
爆炒腰花 爆炒腰花 bàochǎo yāo huā Stir-fried chicken kidney with pickled pepper sauce
Sichuan signature barbecue
川味燒烤 川味烧烤 chuān wèi shāo kǎo Barbecue with Sichuan pepper as seasoning
Leshan douhua
樂山豆腐腦 乐山豆腐脑 lèshān dòu fǔ nǎo Tender tofu with specially made sauce, originated from Leshan, Sichuan.
Leng chi tu 冷吃兔 冷吃兔 lěng chī tù Marinated spicy rabbit meat.
Leng dan bei 冷淡杯 冷淡杯 lěng dàn bēi Leng dan bei is a street food from Chengdu that has emerged in recent years. It consists of cold dishes that are served quickly[23][24].

See also


  1. ^ Dunlop (2003), p. 23-24.
  2. ^ UNESCO (2011). "Chengdu: UNESCO City of Gastronomy". UNESCO. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d Anderson, E.N. (2003). "Sichuan (Szechuan) Cuisine". Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. New York: Scribner's. pp. 393–395.
  4. ^ Fu, Peimei (傅培梅) (2005). 培梅名菜精選:川浙菜专辑 [Peimei's Selection of Famous Dishes: Special Edition on Sichuan and Zhejiang Cuisine] (in Traditional Chinese). Tangerine Culture Enterprise Co., Ltd. (橘子文化事業有限公司). p. 9.
  5. ^ Greer, Charles E. and Muranov, Aleksandr Pavlovich. "Yangtze River | Location, Map, Flood, & Facts | Britannica". Retrieved 2022-04-25.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Tropp, Barbara (1982). The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking. New York: Hearst Books. p. 183. ISBN 0-688-14611-2.
  7. ^ Geng, Olivia (June 13, 2014). "French Rabbit Heads: The Newest Delicacy in Chinese Cuisine". The Wall Street Journal Blog.
  8. ^ Ji, Yue; Li, Shiming; Ho, Chi-Tang (2019-06-01). "Chemical composition, sensory properties and application of Sichuan pepper (Zanthoxylum genus)". Food Science and Human Wellness. 8 (2): 115–125. doi:10.1016/j.fshw.2019.03.008. ISSN 2213-4530. S2CID 132482961.
  9. ^ Dunlop (2003), p. 219-220.
  10. ^ Dunlop (2003), p. 45.
  11. ^ Dunlop (2003), p. 87-88.
  12. ^ Ciang (1976), p. 220-221.
  13. ^ "十大经典川菜 你吃过哪些?". 阿波罗新闻网 (in Chinese (China)). 2014-11-18. Retrieved 2020-11-05.
  14. ^ "The Significant Visual Symbols Design, Logo Design Study of Chong Qing Hot Pot Brand"
  15. ^ Chan, Kei-lum; Fong-Chan, Diora (2016). China: The Cookbook. London: Phaidon. p. 500. ISBN 9780714872247.
  16. ^ Hsiao-Ching Chou. "Dry Fried Green Beans". Chinese Soul Food. Chinese Soul Food. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  17. ^ Lee Hwa-lin (1993). Chinese Cuisine: Szechwan Style. Taipei, Taiwan: Chin Chin Publishing Co.Ltd. p. 78. ISBN 0941676315.
  18. ^ "Green Beans, Sichuan Style". Flavor and Fortune. Institute for the Advancement of the Science and Art of Chinese Cuisine. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  19. ^ "Szechuan Dry Fried Green Beans (Simplified version)". China Sichuan Food. 11 October 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  20. ^ Manyee Elaine Mar (November 18, 2013). The Everything Chinese Cookbook: Includes Tomato Egg Flower Soup, Stir-Fried Orange Beef, Spicy Chicken with Cashews, Kung Pao Tofu, Pepper-Salt Shrimp, and hundreds more! (2nd ed.). Avon, Massachusetts: F+W Publications, Inc. p. 255. ISBN 9781440568190.
  21. ^ Chiang (1976), p. 94-95.
  22. ^ Chiang (1976), p. 250-251.
  23. ^ "成都街头的冷啖杯,本地人习以为常,可是外地人却看不懂_生活". Sohu.
  24. ^ "成都消夏饮食冷啖杯"

Further reading