5 DISHES YOU HAVE TO TRY AT A SICHUAN RESTAURANT
For those who enjoy spicy food, dining at a Sichuan restaurant can be an unforgettable experience.
World famous for its hot and spicy flavours, the heavy use of chillies and mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns, Sichuan cuisine is a favourite among spice lovers. Contrary to popular belief, Sichuan cuisine incorporates sweet and sour flavours into their dishes through seasonings such as ginger, green onion, garlic, fresh/dried/pickled chillies, preserved vegetables, and cooking wines.
Once you visit a Sichuan restaurant, you will know that each dish on the menu has a unique flavour combination that reflects the diversity of Sichuan cuisine. You can taste any variety of sweet, sour, salty, spicy, numbing, fragrant and bitter flavours in the dishes you try, with their taste lingering on your palate. This ability to combine various flavours rather than just one or two distinguishes Sichuan cuisine from the rest.
If you are a spicy food lover looking to try Sichuan cuisine, whether in Sichuan or at a Sichuan restaurant in Chinatown, here are some of their most well-known dishes.
The Sichuan hot pot, which originated in Chongqing, was traditionally prepared with buffalo meat and hot spices to help workers drive away the dampness and chill of winter. It quickly gained popularity among the general public as an inexpensive dish that was filling once consumed.
This hot pot has evolved from a meal to a way of life. It works well for any occasion, from friendly gatherings to family reunions to holiday celebrations. The dish includes a soup base with dipping sauce and meat and vegetables to go with it.
The Sichuan hot pot differs from other variations primarily because of its distinctive soup base. It is a complex flavour-layered broth made with rich beef tallow, fermented fava-bean paste, and chilli oil. A dozen herbs and spices are also added to enhance the taste.
Hui Guo Rou, which translates to ‘the meat that returned to the wok’, is another name for twice-cooked pork. The meat used in this dish is the pork belly which, as the name suggests, is prepared in a two-step cooking procedure. First, a large piece of pork belly will be cooked in water and cut into slices. Then it will be stir-fried with vegetables and seasonings in a wok. Following this procedure provides a complex and delicious texture to the dish.
This dish’s aromatic and spicy flavour comes from two key ingredients: fermented black beans and chilli bean paste. Since the cooking process removes some of the fat, the pork belly does not taste oily when combined with these condiments.
KUNG PAO CHICKEN
Known as one of the most famous Sichuan dishes, Kung Pao chicken features a savoury, mildly spicy taste with the nutty flavour of peanuts. It includes vegetables, hot chillies, Sichuan peppers, fried peanuts, and breaded and fried chicken.
Ding Baozhen, a former Sichuan governor during the Qing Dynasty, is the inspiration behind the dish’s name. As his honorary title was Gongbao, people referred to him as Ding Gongbao. Some believe he invented Kung Pao chicken, while others claim it was named after him because it was his favourite food.
When preparing the dish, chicken breast is sliced and stir-fried with ‘Kung Pao Sauce,’ a combination of soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar. Specific ingredients such as Sichuan peppercorns, whole-dried red chillies, Chinese black vinegar, and rice wine are also used in traditional preparations. It is a dish that perfectly balances sweet and sour flavours with a healthy dose of spice.
A popular dish in Sichuan cuisine, Mapo tofu has a spicy flavour due to Sichuan peppercorns’ unique ‘numbing’ effect. The meal name roughly translates to ‘pockmarked grandma’s tofu’ and is one of China’s most famous tofu recipes.
The dish was first prepared in a small restaurant in Chengdu called the Wanfu Qiao, owned by a woman named Chen and her husband. They served quick and simple meals to labourers and porters using ingredients bought by the customers themselves. Mapu tofu resulted from one such prepared dish, which later became popular among the general public.
Generally, a modest amount of ground pork is added to this spicy and delicious dish. However, this ground pork can be left out for those looking for vegan or vegetarian options.
SICHUAN FISH WITH PICKLED MUSTARD GREENS
Sichuan Fish with Pickled Mustard Greens is a delicious and soothing dish that is perfect for a cold day. When preparing the dish, fish fillets are sliced and poached before being added to an aromatic and spicy stew flavoured with pickled mustard greens. In Chinese, these pickled mustard greens are known as ‘suan cai’ and are used to add a ‘sour’ flavour component. For aesthetic purposes, dried red chillies and golden flower petals are sprinkled on top of the dish, along with a sprig of fragrant green Sichuan peppercorns.
ENJOY SICHUAN CUISINE AT THE BEST SICHUAN RESTAURANT IN SINGAPORE
Kuan Zhai Alley is a premier Sichuan restaurant located in the heart of Church Street in Singapore. If you are looking for a luxurious dining experience surrounded by iconic Sichuan elements, this is the place for you. They serve Classic Sichuan cuisine prepared using traditional Sichuan cooking techniques and locally sourced ingredients. Their menu features a delectable selection of Sichuan favourites with some vegetarian options making Kuan Zhai Alley an excellent choice for all diners. You can find more information or make a reservation at https://kuanzhaialley.com.sg/.