China – Indispensably Sichuan
Take a Trip with me to the UNESCO city of Gastronomy , Chengdu and around the Sichuan Province.
Out of the eight-modern-cuisines of China , Sichuan entices me the most . Hence we decided to explore it which is also the scenic off-beaten part of China.
It really is no surprise that the sichuan flavors would attract an Indian like me…. We love bold and spicy food ourselves and that along with the fact of the close geographical proximity ; We as Indians took to the Chinese cuisine most naturally . In fact , it would be safe to say that Chinese was the first international cuisine that was unanimously accepted . And today years later we know we are in complete union with it and you can see that reflect in the many ‘Indian – Chinese’ restaurants we have.
We flew to the capital Chengdu but bypassed it to go deeper to the exotic Six Senses at Qing Cheng mountain .Surrounded by mesmerizing landscape this dreamy property stole my heart in a jiffy . I don’t really know if it was the regular practice of Tai-Chi or just the calm surrounding , but the people here had a very peaceful energy which was being transferred to us with every passing minute. The F&B manager took us to the resort’s organic kitchen garden before he showed us the property restaurants . This approach definitely made us look forward to the food even more.
Eagerly, we approached the chinese restaurant and left our first order to the chef to entice us with his signature dishes . Even though I gave him the authority I quickly glanced the menu to search for the not-so regular dishes (common people! I am in China,I expect out-of-the
-box produce making the cut!)…and there it was BINGO! Hot & Sour JELLY FISH ..Crunchy…Hahaha! We embraced ourselves as the dishes were ushered to our table.. The chef had taken it easy on us…we didn’t get any jelly fish or snakes but flavor dynamite dishes cooked with more familiar proteins that left us yearning for more..
HOW TO SURVIVE the Star Shicuan HOT-POT
This tongue numbing simmering dish that is the star of the province & is a definite no miss . Earlier though, it was considered to be a communal dish for the commoners ; But over the years with it’s growing popularity it has become more refined dish – sidelining the use of offal with more premium meats and sea food but yet retaining the flavor-packed power-house broth with minimal tweaks. I though strongly would recommend that it should be accompanied with a bowl of yoghurt too.Because after you have indulged in this fiery broth you very well will require a coolant for the well-being of your digestion system… Ha!
BEYOND HOT -POT
The dishes here are primarily made with pungent spicy aromatics like garlic , sichuan pepper ,start anise . Greased with chill oil and given the tartness from pickles and added earthen notes from the nuts that are thrown in generously along with the freshness bought to the dish along with herbs that top it right before it reaches the table. My favoritesttttt dish from my trip has to be the globally recognized Dan-Dan noodles – this dish is all about the noodles . They are handmade to perfection…all stretchy and bouncy that are coated with a spoonful flavoring of your pick from sichuan peppercorn , black vinegar, soy sauce, dried chilies, crushed peanuts, chopped scallions – pickled mustard root and garlic, a vat of red chili oil and topped with ground pork . I personally like to add the sesame – peanut sauce to balance the dish than the chilly sauce.Yumminess personified is how I’d describe it.
Other delicacies to choose from in Sichuan culinary are many , whose heart and soul truly lies in their alchemy of flavors . A few that I look forward to indulging in again are Ma Po Tofu which is a fiery sauce coated wobbly silken tofu..literally like clouds in your mouth . Another of my favorite is handed to us all the way down from the Qing dynasty.It has also made it’s mark on most of the international chinese restaurant menu’s , the famous – Kung Pao Chicken which is made with a trio of main ingredients cubed chicken , golden peanuts and red chillies .While the sichuan peppercorn leaves your tongue tingling ,the hotness of the dish is balanced by a lip smacking sweet & sour sauce making you yearn for more. And the one I ate here was a far cry from what we eat at home!
Panda and Yum-Cha’s
Dujiangyan Panda Valley is a visual treat for Panda lovers…Or should I say for all ; I mean common it is next to impossible not to love these giant cuties. Through the manicured gardens we made our way upward into the sanctuary where we met these gentle giants who are GIANT CHILLER’s I’d say with a low-stress life style .. they are primarily on two point agendas – Eat & Sleep!!
Post our inspiring-encounter with the Panda’s ,We went in for chinese high tea preferably called Yum Cha. It mainly comprises of a variety of dim sums which are served sweet and savory along with never-ending refill of chinese tea. One is spoilt for choices here- the savory ones vary from steamed buns , char sui baau , siu mai , rice noodle rolls and a variety of dumplings mostly steamed , some fried . And the sweet varying from bean paste buns , sai mai and egg tarts . After we finished eating to our heart’s content just like a Panda we crashed and snoozed like them too! True Story..that I’d love to repeat..
Take a Trip with me to the UNESCO city of Gastronomy , Chengdu and around the Sichuan Province.8
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