While I have been comfortable making simple stir-fries since I was a teenager, discovering the standard processes and ingredients of authentic Sichuan food eluded me. Being familiar with Western style dishes, I often feel I can identify the basic ingredients from sight or flavor. However, Sichuan food is a new language and it took direct instruction to get the basics down. After completing half of the cooking course, I finally feel like I can identify at  least the “greetings” of Sichuan cuisine.

A few basics-

  • Meat is frequently marinated in salt and cooking wine. Starch is often added to tenderize.
  • Spicy peppers or chili paste are stir-fried in oil first to infuse their heat to the oil. The temperature of the oil can be quite low for these first ingredients to make sure they don’t burn.
  • When cutting, careful attention is paid to shape. The vegetables and seasonings should mirror the shape of the meat. Vegetables should be cut slightly smaller than meat.
  • Soy sauce is used almost exclusively for coloring, not for flavor.
  • Whenever starch is added, in a sauce, marinade or on its own, do not stir immediately. Wait 5- 10 seconds.