The Sichuan province in Southern China is home to a style of cooking that's rich in spices and fresh vegetables. The cuisine is served in restaurants across Australia, but dishes are often modified to suit Western palates. It's worth seeking out traditional Sichuan dishes for a real taste of the region and to experience the unique flavour combinations on offer. Here's an overview of the cooking style and a few traditional Sichuan dishes to look out for:

Cooking Style

Sichuan dishes are often hot and sour thanks to the frequent use of chillies, garlic and Sichuan pepper, which is a spice with a citrusy flavour that can numb the mouth. Other common spices include ginger and star anise, and dishes often contain or come with pickled vegetables, which add to the sourness. Pork is the meat most commonly used, but beef, chicken, organ meats, and tofu are also popular. Dishes are often steamed or stir-fried and rice flour or cornflour is used to coat meat before cooking and to create thick sauces.

4 Traditional Sichuan Dishes

These traditional Sichuan dishes are worth seeking out:

Sichuan Hotpot

This dish is perfect comfort food and is often served at family gatherings. The base is a rich broth flavoured with Sichuan pepper, ginger, bean paste, chillies, and a variety of mushrooms, so it's very spicy and earthy. Slices of meat are added to the broth, and you can choose whatever type of meat you like. Chicken, pork and organ meats such as kidney are popular in this dish, and it's served with a garnish of spring onions and bean sprouts.

Mapo Tofu

This kind of tofu is served in a chilli, garlic and fermented soy bean sauce and is traditionally topped with ground pork and served with rice. This dish also contains water chestnuts and mushrooms and is delicious with steamed greens such as pak choy. If you're vegetarian, simply ask for the pork to be left out of the dish.

Mala Chicken

This dish consists of chicken pieces marinated with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and ginger before being coated in cornflour and fried with whole red chillies and Sichuan pepper. Mala chicken is a dish for those who can handle heat and perfect for warming you up on a cold evening. The stir-fried chicken and chillies are garnished with sesame seeds before being served, and the dish is best enjoyed with sir-fried vegetables and rice.

Spicy Aubergine and Pork

Smoky aubergines are stir-fried with ground pork in a sauce of chicken broth, chilli paste, soy, hot bean sauce, and rice vinegar to create a dish that's filling and packed with flavour. This dish pairs well with Sichuan green beans, which are sautéed with ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and Sichuan pepper.

These are just a few of the delicious dishes Sichuan cuisine has to offer. Next time you eat out at a Chinese restaurant like Sun Wah Restaurant & Function Centre, ask your server to point out any Sichuan dishes on their menu.