As someone that has been living in China for a few years, I can say that my view towards Chinese food has completely changed since living in China. The cuisines and flavors are so varied and bold, that each region has a completely different flavoring. For example, in the south east coast of China, near Shanghai, the flavors are more sweet and salty. Many of the people we met there could not even handle a little addition of red pepper flakes. However, as you head west in China, the flavors change from salty, spicy, really spicy, numbingly spicy, then sour and spicy.
Today we will focus on the famous Sichuan (Szechuan) cuisine, and share some insight and recipes. This cuisine is famous for it’s MaLa 麻辣 (Numb and Spicy) flavors. The numbing effect comes from the fragrant Sichuan peppercorns found all throughout western China’s mountains. Most authentic Sichuan cuisine will add this peppercorn and red peppers liberally, making the dishes almost unbearable after a few seconds. But this is also what makes Sichuan cuisine so irresistible to many people, including myself.
Today, we will focus on a popular Sichuan dish called Dan Dan Mian (Noodles). These noodles are delicious and accessible, and it happens to be very easy to make. The history is a humble one, as Wikipedia mentions, “The name refers to a type of carrying pole (dan dan) that was used by walking street vendors who sold the dish to passers-by. The pole was carried over the shoulder, with two baskets containing noodles and sauce attached at either end. The noodles cost almost nothing, and gradually local people came to call them dandan noodles. Literally, the name translates as "noodles carried on a pole," but may be better translated as "peddler's noodles."
Some versions of Dan Dan Mian will come with broth topped with red chilli oil, and some version will almost look like meat sauce over spaghetti, soup-less wheat noodles with red pork sauce over them. The version I will recommend today is the soup-less version, which is tasty, bold and a little spicy. I have made this version many times, and have gotten two thumbs up from Chinese people!! Here is the recipe from Smoky Wok, a fantastic Asian cooking blog.
If you have an Asian supermarket nearby, you will be able to gather all the ingredients necessary to make this easy, tasty authentic recipe.
If you are in the NJ area, and are looking for an authentic Sichuan restaurant, I would recommend the Green Apple Restaurant in North Brunswick, NJ. Don't be fooled by the strange name, we were introduced to this restaurant by some Chinese friends, and the food was so authentic and spicy, it made us cry, but in a good way. The restaurant was filled with Chinese customers on a Friday night, and the menu was all in Chinese. You can’t get more authentic than that! Here is the yelp review and contact information on the Green Apple Chinese Restaurant.
We hope you get a chance to experience a truly cross cultural flavor, through Sichuan cuisine!
Photo courtesy of The Noodle Guy.
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Unicultural team and trainers, sharing our views and experiences on everything cultural.