About the Book

The essential ingredient for food you’ll want to eat?

The spice that was literally revolutionary?

A pod that shows good luck, women’s and certain peoples’ temper?

An ingredient for staying healthy in damp mountain winters… and to help with drinking and its aftereffects?

The chilli in China is all that and more.

Sichuan chili crisp like Laoganma has become popular internationally; Pixian doubanjiang is increasingly recognized as the soul of Sichuan cooking; Sichuan and Hunan cooking are becoming known as spicy cuisines on a par with Mexican or Thai.

The chilli in China has still not been paid much attention. A lot remains to be learned of – and from – the great role that the chile peppers play in Chinese cuisines and culture, agriculture and economy.

Red Hot China presents the essential types of chilli in China, the ways they spread and present themselves, the products and preparations that shape the authentic flavors of its spiciest regions, the culture and economics of the chilli.

From Hunan cooking’s xianla “pure spiciness” and the revolutionary zeal that links peppers and people, Red Hot China traces the spread of the chilli all the way into the Tibetan Himalayas.

The book goes deep into the mountains of Guizhou to discover the sour-spicy suanla flavor that links ancient spices and the new chilli, and finds the need for hot chilli in the cold dampness of mountainous China’s winters.

In Yunnan, Red Hot China travels along the Tea Horse Road to find unexpected chilli on the way towards Lhasa, and into the borderlands to Myanmar to encounter the ghost pepper in China.

In Chongqing, we look deep into the “boiling cauldrons” of hot pot to find strong flavors for socializing that are moving upscale; Sichuan shows how being known as spicy can hide a cuisine’s true diversity of aromas and fantastic use of spicy flavors.