Interview-Ming Zhang

Ming Zhang was born in Sichuan and lives in Sichuan in the rest of her life. She has one child in middle school and another in elementary. As a housewife, she is taking care of all the food served in the family thus very familiar to the culture and food in Sichuan.


How would you describe the climate in Sichuan?

The climate in Sichuan is very different from place to place. I was living in Kongding city back in the 2000s, that was a big city located in the west of Sichuan. We had a lot of daylight time there, almost 15 hours every day during summer because of the high altitude. Thanks to the high altitude, the hottest temperature in summer is only a little more than 20 degrees and in the winter, it never falls under zero. After I had my first child, I moved to the Chengdu city for better education. Chengdu is the biggest city in Sichuan, located in the east of the province, which is in “Sichuan basin”. Due to the basin, the climate here is very different from what I used to live at. One thing I noticed at the very beginning is the sunlight time is much lower here in the basin than before. We have a lot of raining here in the summer and the humidity is always high due to the terrain. The highest temperature is more than 30 degrees here and the lowest temperature is the same as before.

What about geography?

I’m no expert on geography. But I do know Sichuan is where two Continental plates meet so earthquakes happen very often. This is also why Sichuan has lots of very different terrains. The west part of Sichuan consists of a lot of very tall mountains and the east part of Sichuan is located in a massive basin called “Sichuan basin”. Also, The Yangtze River flows through the province, providing us with electricity and water.

How do climate and geography affect food availability in Sichuan?

The most common crop in Sichuan is rice, you can see them everywhere. My father was a farmer so I know a bit about agriculture. Growing rice needs a lot of water and warm weather and we got them from the Yangtze River and the unique climate in the basin. Another common food here is wheat, which needs a lot of sunlight to grow well. So most of the wheat is planted in the west part of the province where have longer sunlight time due to high altitude. Another food we plant but not eat a lot is sugarcane. It grows like bamboo but it’s solid inside and it’s very sweet. Sugarcane needs a high humidity environment to make it taste sweet. Most of the sugarcanes are used to produce red sugars. See, this is why I like Sichuan, We got a variety of climates here, no matter what weather a plant needs, it will find it here.

Do people live in Sichuan have religions?

No, Most people here don’t have any religions, but if I had to say one, some of my friends are Buddhism.

How does Buddhism impact the way they prepare, serve and eat their food?

The most obvious thing is that, they don’t eat meat, they think it’s evil to kill any living things. So every time a Buddhism friend or family come to my house to eat, I had to prepare special vegan dishes for them. To get those nutritions they lost by not eating meat, they eat a lot of Mushrooms & soy products, for example, tofu instead. Most of them love to give their food a beautiful name to show their respect to the food, but the name also causes confusions because you can’t tell the ingredients from the name. For example, they call vegan sausage “Agate roll”.

What are the most common herbs and spices you use?

That will definitely be Chili peppers and Sichuan peppers. They created a delicious “málà” flavour which all of us love and help us to fix the health problem coming from living in a high humidity environment for a long time. We add peppers to almost every dishes. There’s an idiom to describe us: no chilli no fun. Other than those two, I always add Star anise and Cinnamon when I’m cooking meat and fish. Star anise makes the meat taste nicer and Cinnamon adds a wonderful smelling to the whole dish. But remember, you can’t put them too much, or they will have negative effects.

Can you give some example of herbs and spices used in dishes?

Sure. I just made braised pork this afternoon, I used Star anise and Cinnamon as I said before, I also added a bit of Chenpi to make the meat less greasy. Some other examples will be Koushuiji, where Chili peppers and Sichuan peppers are used; and Shuizhuroupian, where Chili peppers and Sichuan peppers are used.

How many meals do you eat per day? What time do you eat them?

Typically, I eat breakfast at 7 am-8 am, eat launch around noon and eat dinner at 6 pm.


What do you usually eat for breakfast?

We have a lot to choose from. Here are some examples I can think of: noodles with minced meat, Leek or meat Dumplings, mantou and congee. Children don’t like mantous or congees very much mainly because they don’t have any taste, you need to eat them with Zha cai. These breakfasts are very easy to buy and they are usually very cheap, preparing them is also very easy.


What about the launch and dinner?

In weekdays children are in the school so I usually eat foods lasted from last night. But on weekends, we eat outside. For dinner, this is when my family eat together after a full day of hard work. It’s a culture to prepare more meat or fish for the dinner because this is repetitive of wealth. Last night we ate mapo doufu, which was very good and my children liked it very much and Dongpo Pig Knuckle. For today’s dinner, I prepared braised pork, I hope my family will like it.


Can you tell me some specific food that is served on special occasions?

Sure, we have the spring festival, the biggest festival of the whole year, indicates the starting of a new year. In the Spring festival, we eat Rice Cakes and Spring Rolls. The pronunciation of Rice Cake in Chinese is the same as “year higher”, which has a meaning of “this year better than next year”. People eat spring rolls because after they are fried, they look like gold bars. Eating String rolls meaning you will have more money this year. Another special occasion is the Dragon Boat Festival, a festival for remembering a famous poet Quyuan. In that festival, we eat Zongzis.


Is there any food Influenced by colonization or immigration?

I don’t think so. Sichuan is located in the very centre of China and has been a part of China since the source of China, it has never been colonized. Also, there is very few immigration from other countries because we don’t have the best education or the best welfare or stuff like that.




Climate & geographical characteristics, how does it impact food availability

- Four seasons are distinctive

- A lot of rains

- Warm

- High humidity

- Lot of mountains

- wheat: need long sun light time

- sugarcane: need warm weather & high humidity & sun light

- rice: need a lot of water

- corn: need warm weather

How religion impact how people prepare, serve and eat their food

- People love to give their food a beautiful name

- No meat

- Mushrooms & soy products

Popular herbs & spices, why they are popular, where are they used in

- Star anise

- Cinnamon  

- Chili peppers

- Sichuan pepper

Daily eating patterns (time, number, content)

- Breakfast: 7am-8am: noodles with minced meat; Leek or meat Dumplings; mantou or congee with Zha cai

Specific food served on special occasions

- Spring festival: rice cake & spring festival

- Dragon Boat festival: Zongzi

How has colonisation & immigration influenced the food
















Chengdu is a prefecture-level city in Sichuan Province, a trade and logistics center and an integrated transportation hub, and an important central city in the western region. The resident population is 16.33 million with a GDP of 153.277 billion yuan. Chengdu is located in southwest China, west of the Sichuan Basin, and the hinterland of the Chengdu Plain. The territory is flat, the river network is rich, the products are rich, and the agriculture is developed.

Sichuan has heavy rain fails in summer.

Eastern Sichuan:

 - In the Sichuan basin

 - humid subtropical climate

 - long & hot summer

 - short & dry winter

 - low sunlight time

Western Sichuan:

 - A part of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

 - One of the mountains there reaches 7556 m

 - Lower temperature

 - More sun light time





White: no religion

Yellow: Buddhism – 15%

Buddhisms don’t or only occasionally eat meat, so they eat a lot of mushrooms % soy products to get nutrients they needed. They love to give their cuisine a beautiful name, eg:

- Agate roll -> vegan sausage