Chengdu, China’s Spice Capital, Becomes UNESCO “City Of Gastronomy”

Sichuan’s Molten-Hot Spiciness Goes Global

The "mala" (hot and spicy) flavors of Sichuan cuisine are not for the faint of heart

The "mala" (hot and spicy) flavors of Sichuan cuisine are not for the faint of heart

Sichuan cuisine with its fiery spices and numbing hua jiao peppercorns has long been known as one of China’s spiciest (but most rewarding) gastronomical delights — not for the faint of heart. As of this week, however, Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, has another distinction to promote, as UNESCO has designated Chengdu as Asia’s very first “City of Gastronomy.”

This award, which the city will receive as part of the membership in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network for which Chengdu has been nominated, reflects the city’s (and, by extension, the province’s) strong food culture.

From CCTV9:

[Chengdu’s] local dining tradition has become a unique culture, gaining a growing reputation around the world for its authentic spicy flavor, and alluring global gastronomists to give it a try.

And thanks to the booming catering industry, the city of Chengdu is attracting the world’s outstanding enterprises and talents in the field of creative design of gastronomy.

So far there are around 60-thousand restaurants of various scales in Chengdu, with millions of practitioners engaged in catering or related businesses.

The City’s Commerce Bureau has drafted a work plan from 2010 to 2012 to mold Chengdu into a “City of Gastronomy”. As a member country of the “Creative Cities Network” issued by UNESCO, it’s an obligation that Chengdu must fulfill.

Chengdu joins other UNESCO City of Gastronomy honorees such as Popayan, Colombia. According to UNESCO, cities nominated in the Gastronomy category must display a “vibrant gastronomy community with numerous traditional restaurants and/or chefs,” “local know-how, traditional culinary practices and methods of cooking that have survived industrial/technological advancement,” and “traditional food markets and traditional food industry.” If this is the case, then Chengdu, which fulfills all of these requirements and many more, should be an excellent “food ambassador” for southwestern China.

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