The Szechuan style of cuisine originated from a culturally distinct area in the central western of part of China, a province called Sichuan. This part of China came into its own culturally towards the end of the Shang Dynasty in 15th century. Nevertheless, it was also the climate of the area that aided to shape the culinary customs that were to spring up from Sichuan province and gain their way into the domain of international cuisine.
The province from which the cuisine that the world knows as Szechuan developed is often hot and humid, and this added to this necessity of preparing foods in modes that differ importantly from other regions of China. Szechuan cuisine is chiefly known for its hot and spicy dishes, though of course there is more to Szechuan food than spice and sauces rich and potent in flavor.
A full general overview of culinary account and trends reveals that, for the most part, locations that tended to spice heavily were areas in which the fresh food source wasn't as dependable as in places that traditionally utilized a lighter hand in their use of spices. The climate of Sichuan is contributory to hastened food spoilage. This, especially in the past, made requisite food preservation methods that themselves left behind a strong flavor, such as salting, pickling, smoking and drying. Thus, spices helped mask the flavors of less than fresh foods and those that have been preserved by techniques that affect their natural flavors. Likewise masking certain flavors, the use of hot spices, such as chili peppers, leans to be more common to hot climates, as the sweat that they induce is believed to cool the body.
Much of the spicing of regional Chinese cooking is founded upon bringing together five key taste sensations â sweet, sour, pungent, salty and bitter. The balance of these particular factors in any one dish or regional cuisine can deviate, according to need and want, especially as determined by climate, culture and food availability.
In Szechuan cuisine, there is an assortment of ingredients and spices used to produce these basic taste sensations. These involve a variety of chili peppers, peppercorns over various types, Sichuan peppers, which are actually a type of fruit, not pepper, and produce a numbing effect besides their warm flavor. Sichuan peppers, also known as flower pepper and mountain pepper, are a traditional part of the Chinese five spice powder, or at least of those that are patterned upon the most authentic versions of the spice combinations more common to regional Chinese cooking.
Other ingredients utilized normally in Szechuan cuisine to create the five key taste sensations include different types of sugars, like beet root sugar and cane sugar, as well as local fruits for sweetness. The sour taste comes from pickled vegetables and different assortments of vinegar. A special bitter melon is added up to many dishes to offer the touch of bitterness that complements other flavors. Additional spices and flavors involve dried orange peel, garlic, ginger, bean paste and sesame oil. Salt is crucial to Szechuan cuisine, and the area produces uniquely flavored salts that help to mark authentic Szechuan cuisine from the other regional cuisines from China.
Szechuan cuisine is set by its rich traditional flavors, which stem from a culture of centuries and are partly shaped by the natural forces of climate. Authentic Szechuan cuisine offers up a unique dining experience made up of adventuresome and creative tastes.