Learn where Sichuan got its spice at the Museum of Sichuan Cuisine. Located about a 1.5-hour drive by car outside of downtown Chengdu near Pixian Old Town, the museum not only gives a history of Sichuan cuisine but is also home to a tea house and a restaurant where guests can sample typical Sichuan food and, possibly, prepare a dish of their own.
The museum consists of halls that show various elements of Sichuan food, from antique tools used for processing to a collection of more than 3,000 bronze, pottery, porcelain and wooden cookers that span 2,000 years. Perhaps most intriguing are the giant open-topped clay pots containing fermenting chiles and beans that are on their way to becoming douban jiang, a red, fermented paste of erjingtiao chiles and broad beans that is responsible for the deep umami flavor and penetrating heat in famous Sichuan dishes. A visit to the Museum of Sichuan Cuisine gives a guest a unique look—and taste—into one of China’s most popular palates of flavor.