Top 18 Most Popular Spicy Food/Dishes in China
Sichuan dishes are popular all over China. The distinctive feature of Sichuan cuisine is the use of hot pepper and a variety of sauces. Sichuan dishes usually have bold, strong, and spicy flavors. If you are fond of spicy food, you may particularly love Sichuan dishes. Below you will find a list of the most popular Sichuan dishes.
1. Aunts Climbing the Tree
- Chinese Name: 蚂蚁上树
The name is interesting, Isn’t it? It is so-called because the dishes have minced meat clinging to the noodles, evoking an image of ants walking on twigs. The dish contains noodles, minced meat (pork), and other ingredients like carrot strips, ginger, onion, and bean sauce. It is tasty and is particularly loved by children.
2. Bang Bang Chicken/Bon Bon Chicken
- Chinese Pinyin: 棒棒鸡 bàngbàng jī
Bang Bang Chicken is a popular cold dish in Sichuan cuisine. It contains crisp chicken bites drizzled with oily spicy and sweet sauce. It tastes numbing, sour, and a bit sweet.
The dish got its name from how the chicken is tenderized by being pounded by a stick.
3. Sichuan Water Boiled Beef
- Chinese Name： 水煮牛肉 shuǐ zhǔ niú ròu
This dish contains tender beef slices， dried chili， vegetables, and a variety of ingredients such as ginger, onion, and Sichuan bean sauce. The beef slices are not fried with oil but scalded in spicy soup. The beef is tender and spicy with a bold flavor. This is a very popular dish in the autumn and winter seasons.
4. Fish with Picked Mustard Greens
- Chinese Pinyin: 酸菜鱼 suān cài yú
This is a very popular and easy homemade dish. It contains fish slices, pickled mustard greens, and other ingredients such as ginger, hot pepper, Sichuan bean sauce, green onion, etc. The fish is very tender, and the sour and spicy taste of the soup is also very delicious.
5. Husband and Wife Lung Pieces
- Chinese Pinyin:夫妻肺片 fūqī fèipiàn
The name may scare you. It contains no lungs. The dish is sliced beef in chili sauce, sometimes there are many ox organs contained in this dish. This dish is said to have been created by a couple in the 1930s, hence the name.
An interesting thing is that on some menus it is called “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”.
6. Mapo Tofu
- Chinese Name： 麻婆豆腐 mápó dòufǔ
Mapo Tofu is sautéed tofu in hot and spicy sauce. It is named after the lady Chen Mapo, who created its cooking method. The ingredients of Mapo Tofu include tofu, minced beef or pork, chilies, and Sichuan pepper, which highlight the characteristics of Sichuan cuisine - hot and spicy.
Today, this dish is very easy to find in restaurants outside China, but only in restaurants in Sichuan, you can have the most authentic tastes.
7. Shredded pork in garlic Sauce
- Chinese Pinyin: 鱼香肉丝 yúxiāng ròusī
This dish can be called "sliced pork with fish flavor". It contains shredded pork sautéed in spicy garlic sauce, mixed with ginger, sugar, soy sauce, broad-bean sauce, and other condiments.
Fish flavor (Yu Xiang in Chinese) is a very traditional flavor in Sichuan province. It a famous seasoning mixture in Chinese cuisine, and also refers to the resulting sauce in which meat or vegetables are cooked. There is of course no seafood in the dish.
Legend has it that in ancient times, there was a family in Sichuan who loved to eat fish and had a special seasoning mixture. One night, there was no fish to cook so the hostess took the left-over sauce from the fish to flavor meat, which turned out to be unique and delicious.
8. Sichuan Hot Pot
Sichuan is nationally famous for its hotpot. A hotpot is a stew of meat and vegetables cooked in a simmering pot of soup stock and can be roughly divided into two types, spicy and clear (not spicy). But with dozens of condiments, it also has hundreds of different flavors.
Sichuan people believe hotpots should be “the spicier, the better”, so the spices of Sichuan hotpots feature all kinds of chilies and peppers.
9. Kung Pao Chicken
Kung Pao Chicken is perhaps the most popular Sichuan Food. The dish contains diced chicken, dried chilies, and peanuts. The tenderness of the chicken, the crispness of the peanuts, and moderate spiciness are widely welcomed by the public.
In Western countries, Kung Pao Chicken is widespread and has become the representative sample of “Chinese food”, just like what pasta is for Italian cuisine.
Sichuan Cuisine Museum, about a 1.5-hour drive from Chengdu City, is the only interactive museum in the world displaying Sichuan culinary culture.
10. Spicy Deep Fried Chicken/ La zi Ji
- In Chinese Pinyin: 辣子鸡 （làzǐjī）
As the name implies this dish mainly contains deep-fried chicken and dried hot chili peppers. The chicken was cut into pieces and marinated first, then deep-fried with Sichuan chili peppers, spicy bean paste, Sichuan peppers, garlic, and ginger.
With the red and bright peppers, the dish looks very beautiful. The taste is very hot.
11. Water Boiled Meat
- In Chinese: 水煮肉片 shuǐzhǔ ròu piàn
Water-Cooked Meat is a dish originating in the 1930s. It usually involves dry chilies and some meat slices (pork, beef, or fish) that have been starched with egg white, as well as a large number of vegetables placed at the bottom of the serving bowl.
What makes it special is that the dish is finally completed by pouring the boiling oil over the prepared meat and vegetables, making the meat fragrant, tender, and chewy.
12. Twice-Cooked Pork
- Chinese Name: 回锅肉 huíguōròu
Twice-cooked pork is a very popular homemade stir-fried dish in China. The main ingredients of the dish are pork and vegetables such as cabbage, bell peppers, onions, or scallions, and a variety of sauces.
The pork is first simmered, then sliced, and then stir-fried.
13. Water Boiled Fish
- Chinese Name: 水煮鱼 shuǐ zhǔ yú
The main ingredients of this dish are fish slices, soybean sprouts, dried chili peppers, and soybean paste. The fish is very thinly sliced, marinated, and cooked briefly in the broth until tender and juicy.
14. Mao Xue Wang
- Chinese Name: 毛血旺 máo xuè wàng
Mao Xue wang is made of duck blood curd, tripe, chicken gizzard, and other organ parts simmered in a broth that is made of peppercorn and chillis. It is popular because of the different textures featured in the dish – from silky (via the blood curd) to chewy (gizzard and heart) and even crunchy (tripe).
15. Dong Po Pork Knuckle
- Chinese Name:东坡肘子 dōng pō zhǒu zǐ
Dong Po Pork Knuckle is a big dish that sometimes appears in the banquet. The pork knuckle is tender, but not greasy although it looks fatty. The pork knuckle is deeply braised thus it is very soft. This dish was said to be created by the wife of Su Dong Po, a famous ancient Chinese poet, hence the name.
16. Wontons in Chilli Oil
- Chinese Name： 红油抄手 hóng yóu chāoshǒu
It is a Sichuan-style wonton. The wontons have very thin skin and the filling meat is very tender. They are boiled, drained, and then served in spicy chili oil. It is a very popular snack in Chengdu.
17. Dan Dan Noodles
- Chinese Name: 担担面 dàn dàn miàn
Dan Dan Noodles are one of the most famous street foods in Sichuan and almost China. The boiled noodles are served in soup with spicy sauce and minced meat over the noodles. The sauce always contains preserved vegetables.
18. Hot and Sour Noodles
- Chinese Name: 酸辣粉 suān là fěn
This is another popular street snack in Sichuan. The noodles are served in sour, spicy, and numbing soup. The noodles are made from starch derived from sweet potatoes and peas.
Although you can eat these foods in other cities in China or even outside China, the most authentic tastes can be only found in Sichuan. Try them if you have any chance there.