What You'll Get
- $14 for $25 worth of Chinese cuisine for two or more
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Sichuan Cuisine: Beyond the Heat
Tongue-searing hot chili peppers may come to mind when you think of Sichuan cuisine, but that’s not all there is to it. Peruse Groupon’s guide to uncover a fuller portrait of this Chinese cooking style.
Take a brick-red bite of a dish such as mapo tofu or kung pao chicken, and the first thing you notice may be the intense heat of chilies. But if you’re in a traditional Sichuan restaurant (or Szechuan or Szechwan, depending on the transliteration), a funny thing may happen in your mouth. As if prompting you to shovel more capsaicin into your mouth, your tongue begins to feel numb—similar to the sensation you might get from biting into the white part of a citrus rind or licking a flagpole. This tag team of flavors and sensations is known as ma la, or numbing hot, and it’s the most vivid hallmark of Sichuan cuisine. A member of the quintet known as five-spice powder, the Sichuan peppercorn is, in fact, the dried fruit of a citrus plant, and it provides a more complex bite than the stuff in your average table grinder. The heat it’s interacting with often comes from dou ban jiang, a paste of fermented soy and fava beans and chilies.
Chili peppers were first introduced to China about 300 years ago, but Sichuan cuisine predates this arrival by many centuries. Before its spice began to hog the spotlight, the landlocked, mountainous region specialized in a milder cuisine that found use for ginger, mustard, chives, and onions. This influence is still seen today in popular dishes such as tea-smoked duck and boiled chinese cabbage. Located smack-dab in the middle of the country, the province provides a rich bounty of edible resources, including freshwater fish, rabbit, sheep, and year-round veggies such as leeks, bamboo shoots, and spinach. Given all these options, it’s no wonder the cuisine is so diverse: on a trip to Chengdu, Bon Appétit’s Andrew Knowlton learned that classical Sichuan cooking “has at least 23 identifiable flavors” and “56 cooking methods, including frying styles like raw-frying, cooked-frying, small-frying, dry-frying, and something called ‘explode-frying.’”
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