The Restoration and Renovation of Sichuan Cuisine

Authors: Go Chengdu


Sichuan Food is unique for its application of various flavors, and almost every dish has its own unique taste.
“It’s the consummate skill of using various flavors, subtle and unequalled, that distinguishes Sichuan dishes,” said Ms. Hou Zhenzhen, who runs a Sichuan cuisine restaurant named Yinyuan (Hidden Garden) at Wide & Narrow Alleys, one of the major tourist attractions in downtown Chengdu.
Ms. Hou is not a Chengdu native. The young lady is from Beijing and has come to settle down in Chengdu because of marriage. Only after she came to the city did she realize that real Sichuan cuisine differs greatly from the foods under the same appellation, which she had tried in Beijing and other cities.
She said she was “thunderstruck” when she had the first bite of the Fish in Boiling Soup, a famous local dish, at a restaurant in Chengdu.
“That made a complete change in my conception of Sichuan cuisine,” she recalled, “before that I just thought ‒ as many people do ‒ that Sichuan foods are nothing but just heavily spicy.”
Having tasted the many Sichuan dishes in Chengdu, Hou made up her mind to open a restaurant which, as she believes, would be a showcase of the authentic Sichuan cuisine.
“There are plagiarized versions in many places,” Hou said, “Sichuan cuisine is misrepresented.”
“Sichuan Food is unique for its application of various flavors, and almost every dish has its own unique taste. Everybody knows the combination of Sichuan peppercorns (ma) and dried chilies (la) in Sichuan dishes, and that’s where the misconception of Sichuan cuisine arises,” Hou added, “We want to show people the consummate skill of Sichuan cuisine in making use of various ingredients to create marvellous and unpredictable flavors.”
Her opinions are echoed by Wang Kaifa, a venerated chef, now 70 years of age, who served as the master chef for Rongleyuan Restaurant, a Sichuan Food restaurant in the New York City.
“Each dish of Sichuan cuisine has its own style; a hundred dishes have a hundred different flavors,” he said.
Sichuan food is famous for its many flavors, and almost every dish has its own unique taste, cooked with the many flavorings and seasonings produced in Sichuan. These include soy sauce, cooking vinegar, special vinegar, fermented soy beans, orange peel, ginger juice,chili sauce, broad bean paste from Pixian, and well salt from Zigong.
“One of the most popular Sichuan dishes is Sichuan Sweet and Sour Crispy Fish, which is a whole fish fried and then served with sweet-and-sour sauce,” said Wang, “It was so popular among Americans that I once found five people come and order five fishes, one for each, and when they had finished the fish, they took home the remains. They told me that the food was so wonderfully tasty,” Wang recalled.
Special recommendation from Yinyuan Restaurant: homemade deep-fried beef jerky, tender, crispy, spicy, and full of flavors.
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