In Sichuan cuisine, the basic elements are garlic, red chilli ( lots of it), fermented chilli bean paste, and the most important part, is the Sichuan pepper, which give the food that unique, bold and complex flavour.
The taste of Sichuan pepper is that wild but unforgettable aroma and sensational tangy taste. Unfortunately, once outside the motherland, most of the Sichuan dishes like Kung Po, Ma Po Tofu and all Sichuan dishes, are completely changed in order to appeal to more people. The Spiciness are tuned down, and most restaurant don't even bother to use the Sichuan pepper, which has completely killed the dish.
I still cannot forget how much excitement I got when I went to Sichuan - ChengDu the first time, the calm of the city, the kindness of local people, the explosive taste of the spicy dishes, the Ma La hot and numb smell that floating in the air, those streetside BBQ cart run by vendors from Xinjiang, and all the unforgettable food that I can only get it there. Astonishing culture shock for me ( well yes I am Chinese but China is hugh)! I had been back Sichuan 5+ times since and still love the place so much!
Sometimes I recreate the Sichuan flavour at home, like Ma Pao Tofu, Yu Shiang Aubergine, Red oil Wonton etc, it help me to remember the happy memory of Sichuan, with my friends, and those beautiful scenery and people!
Related Recipes: (Vegan) Spicy Sichuan Aubergine with White Bean