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Year of the Pig

On February 5 begins the year of the pig  and the two-week celebration of the Chinese New Year. Since Sichuan pork is one of our favourite dishes we decided to tell you some interesting facts about the enormous tradition and symbolism behind these celebrations.

The Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival, celebrating the new beginning, the end of the coldest days, and the prayers for fertility. The legend tells that every New Year a monster came and scared all people, but one year a brave boy fought him off with fireworks and since then the fireworks have become an integral part of the celebrations and the festival. However the traditions are not what they used to be, and nowadays fireworks are not allowed due to air pollution: D

This is the most important holiday for the Chinese family, everyone goes home no matter how he is and the result is the biggest migration of people – about 3 billion journeys within 40 days: D

We’ll tell you also a little bit about the most famous Chinese cuisine – the Sichuan. Sichuan province is located in the warm and humid Tibetan Plateau and is among the richest in agricultural produce in China – growing lots of rice, vegetables and spices. The primary meat consumed is pork and duck, but Sichuan is also one of the few provinces where veal is consumed. That is why local food is extremely rich in ingredients and complex as recipes.

The most characteristic ingredient in the region is Sichuan pepper. Combined with lots of garlic and chilli peppers, it creates the unique flavour that has gained worldwide recognition. Iconic for the Sichuan cuisine is the combination of sour, spicy, hot, sweet, bitter and salty. Local chefs use a wide variety and quantity of spices and techniques to create magical tastes for thousands of years.

Sichuan pepper, although called pepper, belongs neither to the black pepper family nor to the one of chilli peppers. Its peppercorns are similar to those of black pepper, but are split in two and open and have a brown-reddish colour, although there are varieties that are green or even black. It is mainly used in the Sichuan cuisine, however recently it is gaining wide popularity in the rest of the world. It has a distinct citrus-lemony flavour and a tingling refreshing taste.

It is used whole or ground in all kinds of dishes and salads, mainly for cooking red meat such as pork, duck and lamb. One of its most common uses is for cooking game to remove the characteristic flavour of the meat. Its most famous application is in “Chinese 5 spice” and in Chinese hot oil. In “Chinese 5 spice”it is used ground in combination with fennel, star anise, cinnamon and clove.

Chinese 5 spice mix is iconic for Sichuan cuisine and is integral part of Chinese cuisine as a whole. If you order a duck in China, in whatever form or recipe, it will surely be prepared with this spice combination. The balance between sweet, savoury, sour, bitter and salty that we find in it emphasises the characteristic taste of duck meat and in Chinese recipes it is light, crunchy and aromatic and melts in the mouth.

Even the world-famous Peking Duck, for the preparation of which you need 5 days, is flavoured  with a combination of “Chinese 5 spice” and hoisin sauce from inside and a mix of soy sauce and “Chinese 5 spice” from outside.

If you don’t have 5 days and you want to feel the sensation of “Chinese 5 spice” follow our recipe for duck breast and we promise it will impress you :)

Chinese 5 spice is as great in baking as in flavouring meat.