Real Si-Chuan Cuisine and The McDonald’s SzeChuan Sauce

Real Si-Chuan Cuisine and The McDonald’s SzeChuan Sauce

In 2017, Ricky and Morty broke the internet with the McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce. The world then went on a witchhunt for the sacred and out-of-production Szechuan Sauce from 1998. Original tubs of sauces were going for US$14,700 on ebay. You can say that the world went nuts, much like this:

While there was much fanfare surrounding the sauce, many were skeptical about the authenticity of the flavor. For starters, the packaging reads Szechuan Teriyaki  Dipping Sauce:


And let’s remember that this was part of the marketing campaign for Disney’s Mulan in 1998 – cultural knowledge and sensitivities were a rarity back then.

But this got us thinking, what is the authentic Sichuan taste?

The common assumption is that Sichuan cuisine was red and fiery (bordering on incendiary) – basically, the meal should leave you unable to taste anything else, which is also the definition of 麻辣 (má là). But there’s more to Sichuan cooking than scorched taste buds and peppercorn-numbed lips. The cuisine of Sì Chuānlù (四川路), or “Four circuits of rivers,” is vastly more complex, invoking foreign cultural influences, cooking techniques, and ingredients. Sichuan food is really about a variety of flavors: spicy, flowery, salty, sour, sweet, bitter, smoky. The result is a cuisine with an incredible depth and complexity of flavor. 

Some favorite dishes include 麻辣香锅 (Má là xiāng guō), 担担面 (Dan dan mian) and 夫妻肺片 (Fū qī fèi piàn).


Many of the dishes found in Sichuan will still be cooked in chili oil and Sichuan peppercorns. Many believe that the taste for numbingly hot and spicy cuisine was developed in response to the harsh winters in the Sichuan province. The true origin of these fiery dishes actually came from the introduction of chili peppers in the 16th century. These Chili peppers were brought to China from South America by Portuguese traders and it didn’t take long for the residents of subtropical Sichuan to adopt them.
Whether you’re into spicy Sichuan food or just curious about Chinese cuisine, remember that there’s always more than meets the eye. Sign up for a free trial at LightBeijing to learn beyond what your textbook can teach you. From internet slang to everyday Chinese culture, we’ve got all your Mandarin learning needs covered.


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