Step into my kitchen: a talk with a Sichuan chef

Updated: 2012-04-12 14:13


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Step into my kitchen: a talk with a Sichuan chef

Chef Su Yong at his restaurant San Yang Cai in Beijing.[Photo/Agencies]

Su Yong is a 32-year-old chef from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province in China. He has been featured on several television cooking shows, has 2,000 followers on Weibo (the Chinese Twitter) and recently opened a new Sichuan restaurant in Beijing. Sichuan cuisine is notable for its use of mouth numbing spices and is quite popular in China and abroad. Here are his thoughts on cooking and cuisine.

When you were a child, what did you like to eat most?

Liang ban ji. It's a cold dish, with boiled chicken and peppers in vinegar. I ate this frequently as a child. It was the first dish I ever prepared by myself - when I cooked it for my father, he said it was better than his own.

How did you become a chef?

Originally, I wanted to be a musician. After high school, I applied for a music training program in Yunnan province and was approved, but I discovered that the tuition was unaffordable. Then a friend of my sister got me a job at a restaurant in a hotel in my hometown. I loved cooking very much, so I decided to stick with it. My father was a cook and my mother cooks at home, so they influenced my decision as well.

I read cookbooks, watched the other cooks and learned from them. Sometimes they would give me general cooking lessons. In order for them to be willing to teach me, I had to make personal connections and do favors, like helping them with their laundry.

I never gave up on music, though. I still take guitar and singing lessons. Knowing music is knowing life - it is romantic.

How many restaurants have you worked at?

My current restaurant is the fifth one I have worked at. The first was a Sichuan restaurant in a luxurious hotel. I worked there for several years and then at another Sichuan restaurant for several years. I wanted to learn how to cook some different food, so I worked at a steakhouse for several years. Then I moved to Beijing and worked at another hotel restaurant before opening my current restaurant.

What is the greatest strength of Sichuan cuisine?

Adaptability. Sichuan cuisine is famous for being spicy, but only about 40% of Sichuan dishes can be considered spicy. Its greatest strength is great number of influences from other cuisines and overall flexibility.