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Sichuan (http://www.china-tour.cn/Sichuan/index.htm) may be panda country, but Sichuan cuisine could never be described as cute; it is noted for its fiery intensity. Black Sichuan peppercorns and potent red chilies flavor most dishes and garlic and ginger are liberally thrown into the pot.
Crispy rice cakes that crackle and pop are served with a rich, spicy sauce and hot and sour soup is exactly as its name suggests. Chili minced pork and bean curd, called Ma Po Bean Curd, is a famous traditional Sichuan dish.
Freshwater fish is a favorite in landlocked Sichuan. Often, whole fish are fried or steamed and smothered in a chili sauce spiked with vinegar and hot bean paste. Carp simmered with turnip is a popular soup.
One of Sichuan's most exquisite and tasty dishes is smoked duck. The duck is marinated with aniseed, cinnamon and pepper, steamed and then smoked over camphor wood chips and tea. Sichuan's signature pot dish, usually described on the menu simply as sliced pork with chili sauce, also requires a double cooking process. The pork is steamed, sliced into very thin slices and then fried until almost crisp with a sauce of hot and sweet bean paste.
Sichuanese hot pot provides the diner with raw slices of meat, fish and vegetables that are cooked in a pork-based broth laced with, you've guessed it, chili peppers.The dish bubbles away happily on the table. Still more spice is served up in bowls of hand-made, rough-cut Dan Dan Noodles that arrive with a minced pork, chili and garlic sauce.
The food of Sichuan’s neighboring province, Hunan, is similar to Sichuan cuisine. Hunan has a number of interesting specialties like minced chicken steamed in a bamboo tube.
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