Posted: November 7th, 2023
Sichuan province, in the southwestern region of China, is the birthplace of Sichuan beef. Sichuan cuisine is recognized for its deep and rich flavour, mainly because of the taste of Sichuan pepper. The dish has the traditional elements of the Sichuan taste, associated with the trinity of spices; garlic, ginger and spring onions. Historical findings associated the dish with the Ming dynasty (1500AD) (Liu, Volcic and Gallois 48). The hot pepper was introduced to China from South America during this time. It was not until the 19th-century that Sichuan beef became a unique Chinese flavour, enjoying the same reputation as Canton and Shandong cuisines.
The research was meant to answer whether replications of Sichuan beef in Chinese restaurants in the west meet the traditional way of preparing the dish. Having grown up in China, I am well familiar with the meal’s preparation methods, taste, and visual appearance. Most people approach the meal as an expression of culinary creativity. Therefore, when preparing the traditional dish, some level of modification is accepted to reflect the creativity criterion. It was interesting to observe how the restaurants were honouring tradition by preparing the meal the same way Chinese families did centuries ago.
Sichuan beef was a meal we used to have at least once a week in my early childhood years. My parents used to prepare the dish in Chengdu banquet style. The family would gather in the main private room, and the dish would be laid out on a central sisal mat with small nibbles accompanying it. My mother would sometimes cook a long arc of courses to accompany the meal, including slim mushrooms and pine nuts. Coconut milk was a must-have for washing down the spiciness. Sichuan beef at our home always lived up to its spicy reputation. With the dish increasingly becoming common in western restaurants, it is safe to assume that Sichuan beef will remain a staple Chinese cuisine.
Liu, Shuang, Zala Volcic, and Cynthia Gallois. Introducing Intercultural Communication: Global Cultures and Contexts. 2019.
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