Sichuan cuisine is world-famous and in a class of its own. The Chinese claim that it comprises more than 4,000 dishes, of which over 300 are said to be famous.
It's easily China's hottest and spiciest cuisine, often using huajiao, literally "flower pepper", a crunchy little item that leaves a numbing and strangely unfamiliar aftertaste-some compare it to spicy detergent.
Sichuan chefs have a catch-cry that draws attention to the diversity of Sihuanese cooking styles: "baicai baiwei", literally "a hundred dishes, a hundred flavors". Whether "a hundred flavors" is a characteristic Chinese exaggeration or not is difficult to say. There is, nevertheless, a bewildering cornucopia of Sihuanese sauces and culinary-preparation techniques. Some of the more famous varieties are yuxiang Wei, a really tasty fish-flavored sauce that draws heavily on vinegar, soy sauce and mashed garlic. Mala Wei, a numbingly spicy sauce that is often prepared with the most justifiable famousness is that used with smoked duck; and, perhaps most famous of all, the hot and sour sauce (suanla wei).
The hottest and sour soup, suanla tang, is eaten throughout China and is great on a cold day. A famous dish is spicy chicken fried with peanuts (gongbaojiding). Equally well known is mapo douhu, which is bean surd, pork and chopped spring onions in a chili sauce.
A favorite with travelers and worth trying simply for the novelty value is guoba roupian. Guoba refers to the crispy bits of rice, uncannily similar to Rice Krispies, which stick to the bottom of the rice pot -they are put on a plate, and pork and gravy added in front of the dinner.