Szechuan Style Of Cuisine In China

The province known as Sichuan, this culturally distinct area in the central western part of China a Szechuan style of cuisine was born. During the fifteenth century towards the end of the Shang Dynasty, this area of China came into its own culturally. However, it was also Sichuan's climate that helped to shape the culinary traditions that were to arise from the Sichuan province and make their way into the realm of international cuisine as known today.

In ways that differ significantly from other regions of China, this 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. Though naturally there is more to Szechuan food than spice and sauces rich and strong in flavor, Szechuan cuisine is primarily known for its hot and spicy dishes.

Culinary history reveals areas that tended to spice heavily were locations in which the fresh food supply was not as reliable as in places that traditionally used a lighter hand in their use of spices. Sichuan's climate is conducive to faster food spoilage. Salting, pickling, drying, and smoking particularly in the past, made necessary food preservation techniques that themselves left behind strong flavors. 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.

Five fundamental taste sensations are sweet, sour, pungent, salty and bitter, and much of the spicing of regional Chinese cooking is based upon bringing these five together. 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.

There are many varieties of ingredients and spices used to create these basic taste sensations in Szechuan cuisine. These include various types of chili peppers and peppercorns, Sichuan peppers, which are in reality a type of fruit, not pepper, and produce a numbing effect in addition to their warm flavor. Flower pepper and mountain pepper are Sichuan peppers, and 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.

Beet root sugar and cane sugar, as well as local fruits for sweetness are other ingredients used commonly in Szechuan cuisine to create the five fundamental taste sensations that include different types of sugars. Pickled vegetables and many different varieties of vinegar adds the sour component. The touch of bitterness that complements other flavors is delivered by a special bitter melon that is added to many dishes. Other spices and flavors include dried orange peel, ginger, garlic, bean paste and sesame oil. 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 from China.

Stemmed from hundreds of years of culture, and are in part shaped by the natural forces of climate, Szechuan cuisine is marked by its rich traditional flavors. Made up of adventurous and creative taste sensations authentic Szechuan cuisine offers a unique dining experience.

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