Sichuan

Mapo Tofu 麻婆豆腐

With the exception of the most amazing Peking Duck I’ve ever eaten, I was disappointed to discover that Chinese food in China is a rather dull affair. Roasted locust and the occasional snake-on-a-stick not withstanding, bland soups and mediocore dumplings seem to be the order of the day on the streets of Beijing.

After spending the best part of a week eating possibly the dullest Asian food on earth, we chanced upon a massive subterranean food-court that specialized in regional food from all over China. It was here, in this overcrowded and windowless basement, that we finally discovered some of that allusive “Chinese flavour” in China – we had found Sichuanese food or more specifically, mapo tofu! Little did I know that I stumbled upon what would possible become one of my favourite Chinese dishes of all time.

Mapo Tofu 麻婆豆腐

Loosely translating to “grandmother’s pockmarked tofu”, this colorfully named dish has all the hallmarks of a true Sichuanese classic. Spicy, stastifiying and, above all, “numbing”, mapo tofu has got it all! Packed full of flavour, it is a great dish to introduce the uninitiated to the unsung delights of tofu. The soft, silky texture of the tofu plays beautifully against the fiery sauce, resulting in a “cooling” contrast to the intensity of the dish.

Easy to make and always tasty, mapo tofu is the epitome of Chinese home-style cooking and makes for fantastic meal on its own with just some rice. Equally, though, mapo tofu makes a great addition to a larger Chinese banquet as it can be made ahead of time and then gently reheated before serving (something of a rarity in Chinese cooking).

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Twice-Cooked Pork 回鍋肉

Twice-Cooked Pork 回鍋肉A true classic, Twice-Cooked Pork is everything you’d expect from Sichuanese cuisine: fragrant, spicy and utterly moreish! Served as part of a banquet or with just some plain rice and a fried egg, this is simple Chinese cooking at its best.

Pre-cooking the pork may initially seem like a bit of a faf, but don’t let this put you off. It’s definitely worth the effort, as the resulting pork is meltingly tender! Once the pork has been cooked and cooled, the dish takes mere minutes to put together – from wok to mouth in a matter of minutes!

For more Chinese recipes, please click HERE or to find out more about how to stock a Chinese Pantry, please click HERE

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Sichuan Chilli Oil 四川辣油

Sichuan Chilli Oil (makes 250ml)

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 spring onion, cut into segments
  • 2 slices of ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 1 small cinnamon stick, approximately 3cm long
  • 4 tbsp. Sichuan peppercorns, lightly toasted and crushed
  • 3 tbsp. chilli flakes (preferably Sichuan or Korean)
  • 1/8 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cumin

Method:

  1. Combine vegetable oil, spring onion, ginger, garlic, star anise, cinnamon and Sichuan peppercorn in a small sauce pot
  2. On a medium heat, let the ingredients fry in the oil for a couple of minutes, or until the garlic and spring onion just start to colour
  3. Add the chilli flakes, ground coriander and cumin
  4. Fry for another minute until the chilli flakes slightly darken in colour
  5. Turn off the heat and set it aside
  6. Pick out the spring onion, ginger, garlic, cinnamon and star anise

The chilli oil will last indefinitely; the longer it sits, the better the flavour

For more Chinese recipes, please click HERE or to find out more about how to stock a Chinese Pantry, please click HERE

Dan-Dan Noodles 担担面

Dan-Dan Noodles 担担面Dan-Dan Noodles are a specialty of Sichuan cuisine and as a result they are not short on spice or flavour. Enjoyed all over China, there are perhaps a thousand versions of these classic noodles but they all have one of thing in common – they’re all ferociously fiery! Lip-numbing and sinus-clearing; these noodles are completely addictive!

Also known as dandanmian, “DanDan” refers to the shoulder-mounted pole that the street vendors would traditionally use to carry their wares; at one end would be the noodles and at the other, the sauce. In the literal sense, the name translates as “noodles carried on a pole”!

Traditionally minced pork is the protein of choice, but if you wanted to, you could always use minced chicken thighs instead. If you wanted to have a completely halal version you could also omit the Shaoxing rice wine.

One of the other main ingredients is chilli oil and whilst you can use one that is store-bought, I would strongly recommend taking the time to make your own – it isn’t at all difficult and it makes a world of difference! Once you’ve tasted the noodles made with your homemade chilli oil you’ll never bother with the store-bought version again. If you would like to make your own Sichuan chilli oil, follow the link.

For more Chinese recipes, please click HERE or to find out more about how to stock a Chinese Pantry, please click HERE

Click here for the recipe