Gourmet Trips

Burn your lips and remember me

Sichuan is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Not only the geography is beautiful, with majestic mountains and river that meanders through them, stepped farming cut into the hillsides, the oldest man-made water irrigation (Dujiang Dam 都江堰, built 250 BC) in the world, the cuisine is beautiful too.

Capital of Sichuan – Chengdu

And in the midst of all these natural beauties, the ancient city of Chengdu stands out as a 10MN population on kind of flatland. Technically known as the Sichuan Basin, Chengdu is located at the western edge as has always been known in history as the Chengdu Plain 天府之國.  The first known recorded history were found as far back as 5th Century BC, and since it has been a strategic city to capture 兵家必爭之地 for its natural barriers as well as the abundance of produce. Today, Chengdu is known as the innovation hub of the Southwest of China, with a mild climate and educated workforce, and a fiery cuisine that everyone has come to love.

Capital of Spice

Chengdu is officially recognised by UNESCO as City of Gastronomy, being the unofficial cradle and centre of Sichuan cuisine. Sichuan cuisine 川菜 has been defined as one of the four main cuisines of China (the others being Cantonese 粵菜, Shandong 魯菜, Huaiyang 淮揚菜), although many gourmands will argue that Chengdu can be their representation of Sichuan cuisine.

Catering is also an important part of Chengdu’s service sector. Chengdu, a provincial capital city of Sichuan, is home to 62,509 catering enterprises giving work to 248,500 employees. In 2008, the city accomplished retail sales of nearly USD 44 billion, ranking fifth across the country, contributing significantly to local employment and economic growth. To date, the city boasts over 60,000 restaurants and more than 2,300 renowned chefs and serving masters.

This trip to Chengdu, I have the pleasure of dining in some of these very good examples of Sichuan cuisine , from the traditional Sichuan and hotpot, to modern interpretations of the genre. All tasty, all spicy.

Traditional Sichuan hotpot

If one dish is to define Sichuan cuisine, it would have to be this.

Sichuan hot pot

The mala hotpot is only a recent phenomenon, but it has spurned off a series of variations that included maocai 冒菜, malatang 麻辣烫, mala skewers 串串香, spicy boil 水煮. You read it here first – I officially translate 水煮 as a spicy boil.

Genealogy of the mala hotpot © CBNDATA

Where to go

Here’s a list of Sichuan restaurants for your reference.

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