The ingredients are the necessary and essential elements of Sichuan Food. To learn about Sichuan food, we have to learn about its ingredients as well. Ingredients are very important in Sichuan Food as it not only covers the strong smell of raw eating materials (as we cook more parts of an animal than western people), but also to change its original flavor or to create a new flavor. The reason that why Sichuan food is so popular in whole China is that the flavors make a big difference as they are determined by the ingredients. For example, to make Double-cooked Pork Slices, if you don’t use the fermented broad bean sauce then the flavor is not the genuine one. The unique ingredients of Sichuan Food include Sichuan Pepper, Pixian Fermented Broad Bean Sauce, Pickled Pepper, Chili, Sichuan Well Salt and Dried Tangerine Peel.
Sichuan Pepper Corn
Sichuan Pepper Corns are widely grown in many parts of China. However the places in Sichuan provide the best pepper corns. Qingxi in Sichuan is famous for its pepper corn production. Pepper corns here are big in size, red in color, strong flavor and small seeds. In history, Sichuan Pepper was among the tributes to the central government of China since 2000 years ago. The numbing flavor was unique and loved by people. The numbing flavor is given by the essential oils in the pepper corn. The oils contain Geraniol, Limonene and Selenol. A lot of Sichuan Food will use Sichuan Pepper Corn. You can use the dried pepper corns directly for hot dishes and use powdered pepper corns in both hot and cold dishes. Also these corns can be made into Sichuan pepper oil.
Chenpi tastes bitter and was first used as a medicine. In Sichuan Dishes, the Dried Tangerine Flavor dishes will use Chenpi in the dish. Chenpi is very easy to make. They are dried tangerine peel. The peels are more often used in cold dishes. For example there is Chenpi Rabbit Dices, Chenpi Beef and Chenpi Chicken. Other than this, Chenpi is sometimes also used in the Five-spice dishes due to its unique scent.
There are mainly two ways of using chili in Sichuan Food as ingredients. First is dried chili. Erjintiao in Chengdu and Qixingjiao in Weiyuan are among the best of the dried chili. The best ingredient chili is in the very red color and with less seeds inside. Dried Chili can also be grinded into dried chili minces, which is another common ingredient in both hot and cold dishes. The chopped dried chili is extremely common in daily Sichuan dishes. These chopped ones are used very often in the stir-fries. The chili minces are also used in Kung Pao Chicken cooked in eastern Sichuan to add the color. Also the grinded powders are often processed further into Chili sauce, and become the most favored sauce in Sichuan for everyone. The other processed chili ingredient is the pickled chili. These chili are often used to cook fish and fish-flavored dishes like fish-flavored aubergine and fish-flavored shredded porks
Pixian is the name of the town west to Chengdu and famous for its long history of making great fermented broad bean sauce. Pixian Douban is its Chinese name and almost every Chinese people know this sauce. As its name indicates, this sauce is made of fermented broad beans and chili along with flour. The color of the sauce is normally in dark red. It tastes spicy and salty. It’s not peanut butter, so normally we don’t eat them directly. It is THE MAJOR sauce we use when we cook Sichuan Food. The sauce usually needs to be grinded before use. And it is very easy to buy them in any food shop in Chengdu. If you are a local Sichuan people and if you have never used this sauce then you are not from Sichuan.
One of the reasons that Sichuan people have the chance to create such variety of food attributes to the rich source of salt. In Zigong in Sichuan, people use the salt from the well. Salt from Zigong is considered great salt in quality and also once a tribute to the central government in China along the history.
Fermented Soy Bean Sauce
This sauce is a little different from the broad bean sauce. It also needs to be fermented and with flour. The color of this sauce is black like and you can eat them directly. The best sauce of such kind are from Yongchuan and Tongchuan of northern Sichuan. The Double-cooked Pork Slices will need to use this sauce definitely and other dishes that need this sauce include Yanjian Pork and Douchi Fish.