Many countries pride themselves on turning out spicy, delicious dishes known for their intense heat. China is no different. Sichuan cuisine, one of the most loved food types in all of China, contains dried red and fresh green chiles, peppercorns, and red chile oil. The exact combination of spices served depends on the meat it accompanies.
Hunan cuisine trumps Sichuan cuisine in both hotness and spiciness. Although this dish comes with fewer peppercorns, it makes up for it with red, fresh green, and pickled chiles. Braised pork served with chestnuts and white pepper smoked beef are two of the most popular types of Hunan cuisine.
Dishes originating from Northern China have a slightly different taste, but they can be just as spicy. Cumin lamb and fresh fish wrapped in hot bean sauce pack a powerful spice through the liberal use of dried red chiles.
Spiciness and Chinese Sichuan Cuisine Goes Hand in Hand
The dishes below represent just a small sampling of the spiciest Chinese dishes prepared with a Sichuan influence:
- Ma po tofu: Originating from Chengdu, this dish gets its hotness from Sichuan peppercorn. Its primary ingredients include ground pork, tofu, and a spicy bean chili sauce. Legend has it that a Chinese woman with the last name Chen created the extra-spicy ma po tofu for travelers passing through Chengdu.
- Saliva chicken: After eating this chicken combined with 10 sauces and spices, diners will indeed start salivating from the heat. In addition, chefs marinate the boiled chicken in sesame seed oil and chili pepper.
- Hot and sour fish soup: This dish, which hails from the province of Guizhou, comes with fermented vegetables and freshwater fish. It also contains garlic, scallions, chili oil, and red chili peppers grown locally.
- Yu xiang tofu: A combination of garlic, onions, soy sauce, sugar, and red chili bean paste gives this dish its kick. Chefs prepare the mixture along with fresh capsicum and deep tried tofu.
Gaining Worldwide Acclaim for Spicy Sichuan Cuisine
Spice lovers near and far have come to appreciate Z & Y Restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown for its abundance of spicy cuisine originating in the Sichuan region. More than half of Z & Y’s menu consists of dishes with intense heat. Diners can pick out the hottest dishes by looking for a picture of a red chili pepper next to the menu item.
Some prime examples of extra-hot dishes include the ma po tofu described above and the famous steamed dumpling. The latter contains ground pork and red sauce containing several hundred chili seeds and heaping helpings of chopped garlic. The steamed dumpling’s spiciness is not apparent right away. The delayed reaction makes the tongue and throat burn that much more when it does kick in.
Z & Y offers these dishes to everyone, which is not a widespread practice. Many Chinese restaurant owners don’t list the spiciest, most flavorful meals on the menu for any diner to order. They tend to reserve them for people who have already proven themselves up to the challenge of eating some of the spiciest Chinese food in the world.