Many Chinese restaurants in the nation still offer takeout or delivery only due to the coronavirus pandemic. While Americans are happy to support local restaurants forced to shutdown for several weeks or even months, some have decided to use this time to learn how to cook more often at home. Preparing dishes that originated in another country has been an especially fun challenge for people who normally dine out or order takeout several times a week.
Below are several tips for those interested in cooking Sichuan cuisine at home.
How the Sichuanese Came to Love the Hot and Spicy Peppercorn
A few theories exist as to why people native to Sichuan developed a taste for such mouth-numbing food. As one story goes, the climate of Sichuan is so humid and muggy that people naturally gravitated toward strong and spicy foods. Another theory considers the numerous flavors of Sichuan food, including:
Adding chili paste to these ingredients has the effect of making the flavors of each of them richer. They also help to cleanse the palate to get ready for the next dish. In Sichuan, this style of cooking is most common when people prepare food at home and is far less common in restaurants.
Start by Gathering the Right Ingredients
Although people have different preferences for the main ingredients in a Sichuan dish, none would be complete without peppercorns, also known as hua jiao, along with pickled mustard root and hot pepper paste. These give the Sichuan food its famous numbing spiciness. In the past, finding these authentic Chinese ingredients was challenging even in the dozens of official Chinatowns in the United States. With the explosive popularity of online shopping, anyone should be able to find what they need to start cooking this unique and mouth-watering food.
Season the Wok Before Cooking
Meat, vegetables, and other ingredients in a wok can easily stick to the side and make the end result less appealing. The best way to avoid this is to add a small amount of oil to the wok and heating it to an extremely high temperature. Once the oil starts to boil, turn down the stovetop heat and allow it to cool before dumping it. Adding fresh oil just before starting the cooking process ensures that nothing will stick to the side of the wok. After all, no one wants to waste ingredients they worked so hard to get. Another tip is to cut the ingredients evenly to allow them to cook evenly.
Consider Investing in a Bamboo Steamer Too
For foods that require steaming, a bamboo steamer can work better than a wok. That is because metal lids on woks can cause water to collect on the lid. When the cook removes the food inside the wok, the water from the lid can fall onto the plate, dampen it, and degrade the taste. This would happen when using steamers with a bamboo lid. Additionally, bamboo steamers help to preserve the food’s nutritional value and are one of the oldest and most authentic ways to prepare Sichuan food.
While the above are only a handful of tips, they should be enough for anyone who wants to try their hand at cooking Sichuan at home.