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April 11th, 2012

Days Six and Seven: Fish, Pork, Chicken & Chicken


The same authoritative professor was our teacher on Wednesday and Friday. Today's dishes are Chili-Bean Flavored Fried Fish and Salt-Fried Pork Pieces.


I love how the school lends everything a scientific edge. The flavors are categorized and analyzed, the dishes are pinned on the matrix of Sichuan cuisine, their connections and overlaps with other dishes and flavor groups get exposed.

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Despite general cavalier attitude to hygiene, the teachers try to instill good habits like cleaning up and arranging everything in little plates before turning on the infernal flames under the wok.

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The teacher's knife is especially huge and sharp. The instant all the cutting is done she wipes it dry and stows it in a cardboard sheath.

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Chili-bean fish gets its 10 seconds of fame.

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The simple dish of salt-fried pork completely deserved the international attention it received.

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Now, practice time.

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As our team members get used to working side by side, things get more and more orderly.

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Well, almost.

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Let's put 'salt' back in Salt-Fried Pork'! I'm trying to look hospitable, yet there is something demonic in this smile.

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No fish or pork is immune to criticism. Presentation – one of the pillars of Sichuan fine cookery – clearly has room for improvement.

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On Friday, the teacher made unbelievably thin slices of chicken breast and cut them into extremely fine slivers. (She is also famous for her ability to de-bone poultry and break the skin only once.)

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The final dish, starchy and lightly flavored Deep-Fried Chicken Slivers 熘鸡丝.

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The next dish was Sichuan Peppercorn-Flavored Chicken Cubes (花椒鸡丁). It's not a problem to serve chicken and chicken at a Chinese meal: flavors and textures will vary tremendously. This dish involved making a sauce from sugar caramelized in oil (糖色).

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The dish was met with enthusiasm. The caramel sauce made deep-fried chicken cubes glossy and chewy, spiked with tingling peppercorn 'ma' 麻 flavor.

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This chicken makes a savory cold starter or it can be served in a sizzling pan on a tabletop burner, a dry-pot entree. Endless possibilities!