Sichuan food, from the province of Sichuan in the heart of China, represents one of the eight major Chinese cuisines and enjoys a celebrated reputation at home and abroad for its dedication to spiciness. It’s capital, Chengdu, was made a UNESCO city of gastronomy and deservedly so; even within China, over 30% of restaurants serve Sichuan cuisine, making it one of the most popular Chinese flavors in China itself.
Sichuan cuisine focuses on the refined selection of raw materials, proportions, presentation, and sharp contrasts in taste and color. There’s no room for nuance here, Sichuan food tastes as bold as it looks. Sichuan dishes traditionally concentrate on peppers, spices, and ginger, so if you are a fan of heavy flavors and have an urge to challenge your taste buds, this Sichuan food is going to be quite the adventure for you.
Most Sichuan food involves a great deal of preparation and experience, but for an excellent reward. In this box you’ll find all the pantry essentials for this cuisine at decent quantities in case you want to revisit or tweak our versions. As we release more recipes, you’ll gain an appreciation and skill for one of the most popular cuisines in the world.
In your box:
Chinese Sesame Sauce
Sichuan Spicy Bean Chili Paste (also called “Broad Bean Sauce”)
Chinese Dark Vinegar
Dried Dan Dan Noodles
Dry Pot Mixture
Whole Sichuan Peppercorns
Powdered Sichuan Peppercorns (also called “Prickly Ash Powder”)
Sichuan Dried Chilis
Sichuan Dried Chili Flakes
Whole Cinnamon Sticks
Whole Star Anise
If you are sensitive to spice, be careful. The majority of these recipes can be amended to suit allergies and dietary restrictions. Look for gluten-free soy sauce, use a plant-based meat substitute or very firm tofu, and make adjustments where necessary. There are hundreds of variants of each recipe where each chef has made it their own, now it’s your turn to do the same.
About expiration dates: In China, the dates you find printed on the product is the date that it was PACKAGED! The product label will usually say how long it is good for (ie; 12 or 24 months). We have made sure that nothing in your box is expired and still has a shelf life.
About Your Ingredients:
It’s the decadent and sophisticated cousin of peanut butter. In the wild, Sesame is a short little flowering plant native to Africa and historically cultivated for the oil in it’s seeds. Our brains are wired to love fatty things, and until very recently, it’s not been easy to ingest absurd amounts of these tiny seeds at once.
But we can now. Be grateful that you’re living in the moment of history that sesame sauces are being delivered to your doorstep, because it tastes absolutely sinful. Many sesame sauces are flooded with ingredients like rice vinegar, soy sauce, even mayonnaise. No no. Not us. In this box is some of that good-good, probably better described as a sesame paste and comparable to Tahini. For those of you that don’t know, tahini is what lends hummus it’s creamy lick-your-lips quality.
Sesame sauce is used in Chinese cuisine as a dipping sauce, a fat bomb, and to incorporate that “velvet” texture Chinese cuisine prizes so dearly. It’s natural oils also cut and balance out the frequent use of vinegars. But it’s a versatile fat; use it for salad dressings, throw it in stir fries, dip everything in it. Much like garlic or butter, when we say a recipe calls for a tablespoon (like the Dan Dan noodles) it’s a loose measure. You measure that out with your heart.
Diet Sensitivity Details: Contains 100% sesame.
Sichuan Spicy Bean Chili Paste
The name sounds vague and ominous, but chances are you’ve tried it before. It’s known as Dou Ban Jiang, and made of fermented Fava beans, aged for a year and up to 8, then spruced up with salt, chili, and sesame oil. It’s the unsung hero of Sichuan cuisine, and an essential part of this box-family. It’s even referred to as the soul of Sichuan cuisine.
It’s a flavor bomb that’s sweet, salty, spicy, and full of umami, making it a perfect way to bind and elevate stews, soups, marinates, stir-fries, and hot pots. There’s a million asian condiments that can go by the name “fermented bean paste” which are all very distinct and can’t serve as substitutes, so please be sure to get the right one if you’re looking to make more. Even within China, households typically make their own with soy beans, and factories no longer observe the proper fermentation process. It takes an eye to find the flavor that’s *just* right.
The most prized type of spicy bean paste is the Pixian paste with Fava beans and red chili oil. Pixian is a region in Sichuan with unique water sources and weather conditions, where beans are fermented under sunlight for over three years following ancient ancestral recipes. Authentic Pixian Dua Ban Jing has a brighter red color to it, and has a high reputation for its uniquely deep and complex umami profile. This is what we have included here for you. You’re welcome.
Diet Sensitivity Details: Contains wheat.
Chinese Dark Vinegar
Chinese Vinegar is still very much a secret to the outside world. It’s notoriously hard to source outside China, one of those ingredients that you ask family or friends to bring back in their suitcases if they are traveling to the Motherland.
It’s made primarily out of wheat bran and other herbs for flavor. Bacteria first ferments these raw ingredients, or Qu, into an alcoholic mixture, which is then further fermented into acetic acids over the course of 3 months to a year. Think wine going off, but on purpose. But then it’s taken up a couple levels by incorporating over 60 different additional ingredients for its medicinal and flavor properties, meaning it’s essentially impossible to substitute properly. Accept no alternatives.
Dark vinegar, unsurprisingly, adds the prized sour flavor to Sichuan dishes. It’s unique flavor profile and mixture of acids also creates the sensation of feeling insatiable, which pairs super well with the extremely spicy nature of these dishes.
Diet Sensitivity Details: Contains wheat, barley, rice, corn, and sorghum.
Dry Pot Mixture
Dry pot is essentially hot pot without the soup and the time investment, but the ingredients we use to prepare both are the same. In fact, you can actually make hotpot with the dry pot mixture, but with dry pot, everything is cooked up together at once, so that you get all the borrowed flavors from the menagerie of ingredients from the get-go.
Every region of China claims to be hot pot’s hometown, and archeological evidence of old pots claimed as the earliest found hot pot is conjecture at best. Written records demonstrate it’s popularity across all classes and regions, already describing it as a foregone conclusion within the heart of China’s culinary and social traditions. Dry pot springs from this tradition, it’s the next evolutionary hack – all the cool kids are doing it. If you don’t have time to make a soup base, or you wanna skip ahead to where the flavors are amazing; it’s dry pot.
This dry pot mixture is as legit as it gets, and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to prepare. Kick your stir frys up a notch, and use as much as your taste buds can handle.
Diet Sensitivity Details: Contains wheat, beef, garlic, ginger.
Dried Dan Dan Noodles
The best iteration of this dish will always call for fresh noodles. Unless you live by an exceptional Asian market, this will have to do. Otherwise, you can attempt to hand-pull these yourself, which requires patience, considerable upper body strength, and an unshakeable persistence when you inevitably lose the will to live.
Many recipes online say that just about any wheat-based dried noodle will do. They’re lying, and they don’t care about you. Don’t bring spaghetti to a knife fight. In a dish as layered, nuanced, and close-to-the-heart as Dan Dan noodles, you can’t underscore such a central component of the dish. The texture of the noodles, the way it’s surface binds to the sauces, how it’s bite contrasts with the rest of the toppings- not something to mess about with. Everyone in their heart has a dish that needs to be done right, every single time. Make some room in there, because this is definitely one of them.
You’re looking for the right thickness and cut here for the noodles- a bit thicker than somen but definitely on the thin side of the noodleverse. You’re looking for a sauce-to-noodle ratio that lets the sauce shine. Round noodles do best, as they are pulled, not cut. The recipe is with water and wheat, not the egg-noodle variety. It’s a bit painstaking, but worth the results. We’ve included the real deal here so you know what you’re looking for, and can pick them out in the future when you inevitably return to this dish.
Diet Sensitivity Details: Contains wheat.
Many people are surprised to learn that Szechuan peppercorn isn’t really a pepper at all. It doesn’t come from the family of black peppercorns which come from India, nor is it related to chili peppers (genus Capsicum) from central America. It is the seed pod of the short Prickly Ash tree, and sought after for a protein that hijacks and tricks the nerve endings on your tongue. It’s not hot at all, and actually faintly smells of citrus.
Before hot chiles were brought to China from the New World, peppercorns were used to give a mild heat to dishes. As the availability of blind, raw hellfire spice increased in China, it actually increased the usage of the numbing Sichuan peppercorns as a balancing element, which allows you to appreciate the flavor of the chili. The rise and prominence of chili and sichuan peppercorns in the imagination and practice of Sichuan cuisine is relatively recent and also should be viewed hand-in-hand.
Sichuan Peppercorns contain a molecule that causes a buzzing, tingly sensation like carbonated beverages or mild electric current. It can also produce numbness in large enough doses, and is used prolifically in Sichuan cuisine from infernal hot pots to baked desserts.
Sichuan Dried Chili
Chili peppers are a mainstay in Sichuan cuisine. Known for its love affair with extreme spice, it’s hard to imagine Sichuan cuisine without it. But like all good love stories, there’s a bit of a history to it.
Chili didn’t enter the scene until the 15th century- they’re native to Central America. Just to give you some context, this is around the time when Johannes Gutenburg invents the printing press, ushering in the European Renaissance, the Americas are colonized by Columbus while the Inca and Aztec are at their pinnacle, and Byzantine’s capital of the world, Constantinople, falls to the Ottoman Turks.
Spiciness from the Americas first come overseas to Europe, then make their way overland into the heart of China via the Silk Road in the form of dried chilis. Sichuan peppercorns played perfectly with chili, balancing out the heat with it’s numbing qualities. Together this created the intense Mala flavoring, one the three chinese spicy flavorings and perhaps the most famous.
With this box, you’ll learn to make Mala flavors in it’s endless variations, experimenting with finishing oils and sauteed sauces, to see how chili can be layered and nuanced in Sichuan cuisine.
You’ve probably heard of this before, but prepare to unlearn everything you think you know about it. It’s a spice mix used in all Chinese cuisines, and has followed the Chinese diaspora all over the world. There are infinite variations. These are the most common components, but it often includes many other spices:
Star Anise; from the fruit of an evergreen tree native to southwest China.
Clove; a flower bud from a tree from Indonesia.
Cinnamon; the bark of a tree native to southern China.
Sichuan Peppercorns: The seed husk of the Prickly Ash tree from southern China.
Fennel: A perennial herb from the shores of the Mediterranean.
Mixes can include ginger, nutmeg, turmeric, cardamom, licorice, orange peels, and galangal. The “five” in the name actually refers to it balancing the five elements. —wood, fire, earth, metal, and water, not the number of spices. According to traditional Chinese medicine, the five elements are manifested in different parts of the body and imbalances can lead to disease. According to modern Western medicine, it’s anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anti-oxidant, and all sorts of other good things. For thousands of years, different herbs and spices have been used to bring balance to these elements and that is how five-spice powder came to be. Take that, Colonel Sanders.
This mix has been adding an extra oomph to recipes since the 4th century. Take a cue from history and keep experimenting with it; throw it in curries, stews, hot chocolates, pumpkin pies, or snickerdoodles. Add it to a bbq rub. Candy your bacon with it. You know, for health.
Diet Sensitivity Details: Contains Sichuan peppercorn, black pepper, cumin, fennel, cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, licorice, clove, orange peel, hawthorn, ginger, galangal, angelica dahurica.