Originating in the Szechuan province of western China, Szechuan Cuisine (Sichuan Cuisine), known as chuan1 cai4 (川菜) among Chinese, has an international reputation for being spicy and flavorful. Some well-known Szechuan dishes include "Kung Pao Chicken" and "Twice Cooked Pork". Although many Szechuan dishes live up to their spicy reputation, often ignored are the large percentage of recipes that use little or no spice at all, including recipes such as "Tea Smoked Duck".
What many do not realize is that the chili pepper, a common ingredient in Szechuan cuisine (often used unseeded), was only introduced to China following Columbus's discovery of the New World. Chili peppers were perhaps introduced to the remote Szechuan province by Western missionaries. Previous Szechuan cuisine was not completely without spice, however. Szechuan Pepper is an indigineous plant (fruit) that produces a milder spice, and is still a key ingredient in Szechuan food to this day. The reason for this emphasis on spice may derive from the region's warm, humid climate. This climate also necessitates sophisticated food-preservation techniques which include pickling, salting, drying and smoking.
Common preparation techniques in Szechuan Cuisine include stir-frying, steaming and basting. Beef is more common in Szechuan cuisine than it is in other Chinese cuisines, perhaps due to the widespread use of Oxen in the region. Stir fried beef is often cooked until chewy, while steamed beef is sometimes coated with rice flour to produce a rich gravy.
Some common Szechuan dishes include:
Kung Pao Chicken
Tea Smoked Duck
Twice Cooked Pork