Welcome to the world of Sichuan cuisine. As Asia’s first (and globally second) city to be bestowed UNESCO’s 2011 “City of Gastronomy” title, Sichuan food is well-known for its assault on the tastebuds. While this city may be renown for its spice and sizzle—since notable creations like Mapo Doufu and Gong Bao Chicken are indeed picante—multi-faceted Sichuan offers more than just the red hot stinging peppers.

We’re talking about tantalising, strongly flavoured foodstuffs. Be it salty or sweet, greasy or even garlicky, as long as it’s pungent enough to cause a reaction… well, that’s Sichuan for you. China Internet Information Center noted that 200 years ago, Sichuan had no spicy food inventions. In fact, it was the recent fusion of different flavours and seasonings that gave its dishes a uniquely Sichuan taste.

Here we present three traditionally prepared dishes that prove Sichuan foodfare need not taste spicy to impress.

1. Pork Belly & Chicken Herbal Soup in Claypot at Lao Si Chuan Restaurant

Ladle up and serve the restaurant’s most popular soup dish: Pork Belly & Chicken Herbal Soup (Small: $15.80, Large: $29.80 ).

Upon first sip, a clash of bitter and sweet from the dang gui root and wolfberries hits you. Though small in size, the wolfberries still pack a sugared punch. This dish is peppery without being overwhelming, enabling the appreciation of other elements hidden in the milky broth.

The product of many beneficial ingredients, this brew’s especially good for the body. Relentlessly emphasised as highly nutritious, one earnest waitress explained to us how it’s advantageous for girls on their periods. Even for a “small” order, there were generous servings of ginkgo nuts rich in vitamin A, iron-giving honey dates, and pig innards topped off with jelly-like bamboo fungus for added texture.

Simmering under the watchful eye of Sichuan native, Chef Tang De Hai, the concoction is suited for those looking for an interesting clash of Sichuan-style goodness without burning a hole in their pockets.

Address: 249 Outram Road Singapore 169048
Opening hours: 5am – 5pm daily
Tel: 6222 9489

2. French Bean with Minced Pork at Chengdu Sichuan Restaurant

Small: $8.80, Large: $16.80

Normally a platter which induces a burning sensation, it was a relief to find one served without the heat. Uninspiring at a glance but powerfully fragrant upon a whiff, this hometown classic’s a reason why we should never judge a book by its cover.

The secret lies in using a unique Sichuan cooking technique known as dry-frying. This culinary method forces moisture out of the beans, leaving them browned and crisp. We recommend eating it piece by piece, just to savour the unexpected burst of juices hidden in each French bean.

Toss into the mix some minced meat, a smatter of spring onion, and a copious amount of dried olives, you’re bound to get weak in the knees. More discerning palates might even detect hints of ginger, which gives the dish a refreshing taste.

As with most Sichuan edibles, the meal was no doubt flavourful with its salt levels and oiliness possibly proving to be too strong for many. Meaning, please do have bottles of water at hand to wash off the aftertaste. Once you get accustomed to the taste however, you’ll uncover a gem that suits good company and drinks.

Address: 243 Outram Road Singapore 169045
Opening hours: 3pm – 5am daily
Tel: 6222 5335
3. Camphor Tea Smoked Duck at Seletar Hill Restaurant

Half duck: $19.80, Whole duck: $39

Marinated with Sichuan peppercorn and aromatic spices like anise seed, cumin seed and cinnamon, this restaurant’s signature specialty boasts of a subtle sweet yet peppery taste.

Expect a delightful smoky feeling while sinking your chompers into tender flesh. The duck, worth 10 hours’ of preparation time, undergoes a rigorous smoking and steaming process which seals in the flavour.

Having been around for more than 2 decades, this homely restaurant prides its ducks on tasting crispier than others. True to its reputation, the duck’s skin is paper-thin and brittle, complementing well with the firm and succulent meat. Some of the bits were lightly charred, however, they were the best parts to sample. For a sweeter taste, try lightly coating the pieces with the restaurant’s in-house sauce.

Artfully presented with an orchid and sprig, this crowd-pleaser is subject to availability. To avoid disappointment, it’s best to place an order beforehand.

Address: 16 Jalan Selaseh Singapore 808440
Opening hours: Lunch (11.30am – 2.30pm), Dinner (5.30pm – 10pm) daily
Tel: 6483 0348