Regional Cuisine Of China: Szechuan Style Cuisine
by Kirsten Hawkins
The Szechuan style of cuisine arose from a culturally distinct
area in the central western of part of China, a province known
as Sichuan. This area of China came into its own culturally
towards the end of the Shang Dynasty, during the 15th century.
However, it was also the climate of the area that helped to
shape the culinary traditions that were to arise from Sichuan
province and make their way into the realm of international
The province from which the cuisine that the world knows as
Szechuan evolved is often hot and humid, and this contributed
to this necessity of preparing foods in ways that differ
significantly from other regions of China. Szechuan cuisine is
primarily known for its hot and spicy dishes, though naturally
there is more to Szechuan food than spice and sauces rich and
strong in flavor.
A general overview of culinary history and trends reveals that,
for the most part, areas that tended to spice heavily were areas
in which the fresh food supply was not as reliable as in places
that traditionally used a lighter hand in their use of spices.
The climate of Sichuan is conducive to faster food spoilage.
This, particularly in the past, made necessary food
preservation techniques that themselves left behind a strong
flavor, such as salting, pickling, drying, and smoking. Thus,
spices served to mask the flavors of less than fresh foods and
those that have been preserved by methods that affect their
natural flavors. In addition to masking certain flavors, the
use of hot spices, such as chili peppers, tends to be more
common to hot climates, as the sweat that they can produce is
thought to cool the body.
Much of the spicing of regional Chinese cooking is based upon
bringing together five fundamental taste sensations sweet,
sour, pungent, salty and bitter. The balance of these
particular elements in any one dish or regional cuisine can
vary, according to need and desire, especially as influenced by
climate, culture and food availability.
In Szechuan cuisine, there are a variety of ingredients and
spices used to create these basic taste sensations. These
include a variety of chili peppers, peppercorns over various
types, Sichuan peppers, which are in reality a type of fruit,
not pepper, and produce a numbing effect in addition to their
warm flavor. Sichuan peppers, also called flower pepper and
mountain pepper, are a traditional part of the Chinese five
spice powder, or at least of those that are modeled upon the
most authentic versions of the spice combinations common to
regional Chinese cooking.
Other ingredients used commonly in Szechuan cuisine to create
the five fundamental taste sensations include different types
of sugars, such as beet root sugar and cane sugar, as well as
local fruits for sweetness. The sour comes from pickled
vegetables and different varieties of vinegar. A special bitter
melon is added to many dishes to offer the touch of bitterness
that complements other flavors. Other spices and flavors
include dried orange peel, garlic, ginger, sesame oil and bean
paste. Salt is important to Szechuan cuisine, and the area
produces uniquely flavored salts that help to distinguish
authentic Szechuan cuisine from the other regional cuisines
Szechuan cuisine is marked by its rich traditional flavors,
which stem from a culture of hundreds of years and are in part
shaped by the natural forces of climate. Authentic Szechuan
cuisine offers a unique dining experience made up of
adventurous and creative taste sensations.
About The Author: Kirsten Hawkins is a food and nutrition
expert specializing the Mexican, Chinese, and Italian food.
Visit http://www.food-and-nutrition.com/ for more information
on cooking delicious and healthy meals.