There's more to Sichuan food than its famed málà, or "numbing and spicy," flavor profile. Sure, that's the one most people associate with the cuisine, but that's just the beginning. As Chinese cooking expert Fuchsia Dunlop, author of The Food of Sichuan, explains, a balanced Sichuan meal hits several different flavor profiles, some hot and tingling, some sweet and sour, some mild and fresh, and some that combine them all.
In the above video, she shows us another important Sichuan flavor—fish fragrant—by cooking her all-time favorite dish of any cuisine, fish-fragrant eggplant. Make no mistake, there's no fish here. Instead, it gets its name for the aromatics used, including garlic, ginger, scallions, and pickled chiles, which are also typically associated with Sichuanese fish cookery.
Sure, málà is great, but when a cook as skilled as Fuchsia tells you fish-fragrant eggplant is her favorite dish in the world, you gotta pay attention.