Chuan(川) Cuisine – One of The Eight Chinese Regional Cuisines
Chuan Cuisine is also known as Sichuan style dishes, As one of the eight culinary traditions, it is an important part of Chinese food culture. It originated in the ancient State Ba and State Shu, which is now Sichuan Province, and came into form around Qin Dynasty to Three Kingdoms Period (221B.C.-280 A.D.). Chuan Cuisine features a wide range of ingredients, varied dishes, pungent and intensive flavors and the liberal use of spices. It is not only loved by Sichuan people but also favored by people all over the country.
Chuan Cuisine consists of several local variations such as Rong, Yu, Yanbang. The Rong cuisine is mainly Chengdu and Leshan cuisine. It is more traditional and includes many snacks, accessible to the common people. Yu cuisine consists of Chongqing and Dazhou food, which tastes fiery and tingly-numbing. It is famous for rapid evolutions, bold use of materials and also known as Wild Dishes. Yanbang style includes Zigong and Neijiang cuisine, featuring strange flavors, such as hot with numbness sensation, hot and spicy, sweet and sour.
Chuan Cuisine uses many seasonings to create various flavors. The spicy and numbing sensations it produces is the most prominent marker. Staple seasoning includes chilli, peppercorn, Chinese red pepper, broad bean chilli paste, vinegar, and sugar. By blending them at different ratio, dozens of sauces are made, each with its own flavors, such as spicy and numbing, fish fragrant, litchi, spicy, orange peel, pepper and numbing, sour with chili, and strange flavor. Among which, fish fragrant, orange peel and strange flavors are exclusive in the Chuan Cuisine. There are other flavors, like mashed garlic, ginger juice, soy sauce, five-spice flavor (star anise, fennel, clove, cinnamon, and prickly ash and salt), wine lees, fermented soybean sauce, tomato sauce . and so on.
Over 40 cooking techniques are used. sometimes combined, including different types of frying and stir-frying. like pan frying, deep frying, quick frying, sauteing, baking, roasting, stewing, boiling, simmering, steaming, dressing, marinating, and flavor-potting. Among which, xiaojian (sauteing), xiaochao (slight stir-frying), ganbian (dry-sauteing) and ganshao (braising) are the most unique. These together help to make numerous tasty dishes. Therefore, Chuan Cuisine enjoys a good reputation that “one dish with one flavor and one hundred dishes with one hundred flavors”.
Mapo Tofu (Sauteed Tofu in Hot and Spicy Sauce)
Mapo Tofu is the typical dish in Chuan Cuisine. Bean curd being the staple ingredients, its taste is fittingly described as numbing, chilli, hot, aromatic, flaky, fresh, tender and soft. It dated back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The legend says that by the Wanfu Bridge of Chengdu, Sichuan, there was a restaurant. It was owned by Chen Fuchun . whose wife was a skilled cook. She was called Chen Mapo (Mrs.Chen with pocks) because of pocks in the face. She cooked the tastiest bean curb at the time, and people named the dish after her.
Sliced Beef in Hot Chili Oil
The dish originated in Zigong, a city of well salt. In ancient times, the poor salt miners boiled the beef in fresh water for food. Later on, red chilli, peppercorn, and other seasonings were added to reduce the unpleasant odor and the beef tasted good. With improvement by chefs, it becomes a welcomed local delicacy.