Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Country Challenge - Sichuan (province of China)

Like many other countries, the regional cooking of China is so different that I gave Sichuan its own week. Szechuan cuisine is probably the most popular kind of Chinese food consumed in America. When I decided to cook from China this week, I found one cookbook that caught my eye. The author is a British woman who studied at a culinary school in Sichuan, and proceeded to travel all around the region collecting recipes from locals.

The flavors of this cuisine are so distinct. They're spicy, sweet, extremely hot, and rich. The cooking is mostly preformed with one knife, a large cleaver! It is said that China is the place for food, but Sichuan is the place for flavor.

Some say the Sichuan flavor is so distinct from other regions of China because of the geographical location. It is a fertile basin surrounded by mountains. Because of this, it is known as the land of plenty. Some local produce include: mandarin oranges, apples, pears, lychees, bamboo, celery, eggplants, spinach, gourds and melons.
Even salt and pepper are better there! The Sichuan pepper is what truly defines the cuisine. It is very distinct, a brown color with wood and citrus flavors. It is said to give the toungue pins and needles. Sichuanese salt is celebrated because it is extracted from deep salt mines, then heated and ground to taste purer than other salts.

I highly recommend checking this cookbook out. There are so many amazingly delicious recipes, and you'll be shocked at what you can make at home!
I will say though, I went to a local asian market and asked the woman who worked there for help locating the ingredients. I brought the book with me, and showed her what I needed. As small as Bloomington is, it's very cultural and I had no trouble locating a few obscure ingredients!

Recipes taken from:
Land of Plenty, Authentic Sichuan recipes personally gathered in the Chinese province of Sichuan, Fuchsia Dunlop. Norton & Company, New York, 2001.

1 comment:

Joelen said...

Great post! I'm hosting a Chinese dinner next weekend in honor of the Chinese New Year. I'll be informing my friends of your blog so they can read more about this province.