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Sichuan Travel Guide

Picture of Sichuan Location MapThe Chinese often refer to Sichuan as the Heavenly Kingdom (Tianfu Zhiguo), a reference to the provinces abundance in natural resources and cultural heritage. Its name, Four Rivers, refers to four of the more than 80 mighty rivers spilling across the Chuanxi plain in the east. Sichuan is the largest province in the south-west, with a population displaying as much diversity as its landscape. While the east supports one of the densest rural populaion in the world, the west rises in giant steps to the Tibetan plateau, where green tea becomes butter tea and Confucianism yields to Buddhism. These windswept grasslands and deep forests are home to the Qiang and Tibetans.

Sichuan Basin & Garze Ngawa Tibetan Area

Sichuan can be divided into two major topographical parts, the Sichuan Basin and the Western Sichuan Plateau.

Sichuan Basin

Picture of Chengdu City in Sichuan BasinThe Sichuan Basin, also called the Purple Basin or Red Basin, is one of the larger basins in China. Rising 1,000-3,000 meters above sea level, it is enclosed on four sides by the Daliang, Qionglai, Minshan, Daba and Wushan mountains and the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau.

It consists of three parts: the parallel valleylands in the east, the hilly areas in the middle and the Chengdu Plain in the west. Formed by alluvial deposits from the Minjiang and its tributaries, the Chengdu Plain is the largest in southwest China and the major farming area in Sichuan. With a warm climate, fertile soil and the Dujiangyan irrigation system, it is also one of the countrys most affluent regions. The scenic, majestic Emei Mountain on its southwestern fringe is one of the best-known mountains in China.

Western Sichuan Plateau

Picture of Western Sichuan PlateauThe Western Sichuan Plateau, exceeding 3,000 meters in elevation in most parts, consists of numerous canyons ranged vertically side by side and rows upon rows of snow mountains. The northern section of it is part of the main body of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the southern section is the northern stem of the Hengduan Mountains.

Spices You Can Not Miss

Travel to Sichuan in west China, you can not miss the famous spicy foods that are hot, peppery and tingling. Chili, cumin and Sichuan pepper are often compounded.

Heavy use of spices largely results from geography and climate. Sichuan Basin in west China used to be fairly inaccessible, so that it was difficult to get fresh produce. The climate is predominantly wet. Sichuan chefs use spices to cover and enrich the taste of ingredients and to stimulate the appetite.

Nine spices are commonly used, including chili, cinnamon, star anise, bay leaf, black cardamom, white cardamom, nutmeg, Sichuan pepper and clove. Hong Tang - red stock, Gan Bian - stir-fried with spices and Pao Jiao - marinated spices are common uses of spice in Sichuan.

Hong tang is undoubtedly the most popular. The red stock - bright, shining and slightly oily - is decocted from stewed pork bone, sometimes chicken for a lighter flavor and the nine spices. The meaty and savory stock absorbs the taste of the spices, making the taste full-bodied, complex and deep.

Nearly half of the Sichuan dishes are adapted from the stock, from classical cold dishes Fuqi Feipian - thinly sliced beef offal in chili sauce and Hongyou Chaoshou - wonton topped with red stock to hot dishes such as Shui Zhu Yu - thinly sliced fish boiled in red soup.

Stir-frying with spices - Gan Bian quickly brings out flavor and aroma of spices, so the flavor is comparatively simpler and drier, yet intensely hot and spicy. A representative is La Zi Ji - chopped chicken stir-fried with spices, spring onion, garlic and peanuts.

In pao jiao dishes, spices such as chili and Sichuan pepper are first marinated in vinegar and sugar for days and then used as seasoning to flavor ingredients. The taste is milder than the original. Popular dishes made in this way include Paojiao Fengzhao - chicken feet marinated in spices and Paojiao Niuwa - stir-fried bullfrog with marinated spices.



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