Sichuan chili adds spice of life to regional cuisines

Updated 2017-10-12 10:03:55 Shanghai Daily

Rick from the Adult Swim animated series "Rick and Morty" longs for one last taste of McDonald's Szechuan sauce, like everybody else.

Last Saturday, thousands of people showed up at select McDonald's stores in the U.S. to purchase the limited-time Szechuan sauce, a long-discontinued condiment for Chicken McNuggets created in 1998 to coincide with The Walt Disney Company's animated feature film "Mulan."

The sauce was popularized by the Cartoon Network's "Rick and Morty." The limited-time offering caused riots on streets prompting police to intervene, as most fans were left empty-handed. The promotion also caused an online backlash with angry posts flooding social media.

On eBay, new, unopened packets of the sauce were auctioned for nearly US,000. Upset fans of "Rick and Morty" have demanded McDonald's to reintroduce Szechuan sauce to the menu, and McDonald's listened.

In a statement released last Sunday, McDonald's said: "Szechuan sauce is coming back once again this winter. And instead of being one-day-only and limited to select restaurants, we're bringing more — a lot more — so that any fan who's willing to do whatever it takes for Szechuan sauce will only have to ask for it at a nearby McDonald's."

Though named Mulan Szechuan teriyaki dipping sauce, nostalgic fans have described its taste as un-Sichuanese, sweet-and-sour BBQ sauce.

And Mulan herself didn't come from Sichuan Province. In history, the woman warrior who lived in the Southern and Northern Dynasties period (AD 420–589) came from northern China.

But spicy food is indeed an integral part of Chinese cuisine. Across China, many provinces are known for their unique spicy chili sauces.

People across the world have also come to love the spicy Chinese condiments. A few years ago, luxury goods website Gilt was selling Lao Gan Ma, a chili sauce with fermented soy beans, for US a bottle to foreign buyers, roughly five times its price in China.

Vito Bellomo, an Italian chef who has been living in Shanghai for three years and co-founder of We Love Food Consulting, is a fan of spicy Chinese cuisine.

"I absolutely love Sichuan peppercorns and I love all the spices," he said. "Like mapo tofu, I remember the first time I ate it, it was a shock, but after that I absolutely loved the spicy Sichuan foods."

The mapo tofu recipe uses Pixian doubanjiang, a prominent spicy sauce that's considered as the soul of the dish.

In addition to loving spicy Chinese dishes and condiments like Lao Gan Ma, Bellomo also uses Sichuan chilis and spices in his Western-style dishes, like replacing the jalapeno peppers in guacamole with fresh Sichuan chilis to present fresher tastes.

This week, we will take a look at some iconic Chinese spicy chili sauces that have added fiery flavors to the regional cuisines.

Sichuan: Pixian doubanjiang

Sichuan is the capital of spicy cuisine, where people can eat almost anything with chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns.

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