The Tianfu Family Banquet served up to some 200 guests the best that Sichuan cuisine has to offer, from sliced beef and ox tongue in chili sauce to the classic soft and yielding mapo tofu. A total of 16 dishes featured on the menu prepared by renowned chef and food critic Shi Guanghua and former head chef for China's delegation to the United Nations, Zhang Zhongyou.
The menu itself provided a centerpiece for the tables, written in calligraphy on traditional Chinese folding fans. The presentation of tea-smoked duck, twice-cooked pork accompanied by various soups and snacks looked just as artful on the menu as on the plate.
Sichuan cuisine, one of the major cuisines of China, is known and loved across the globe, especially for its numbing and spicy flavors, but it's actually a great deal more than that.
"To most people, Sichuan cuisine is all about being hot and spicy, but that's not correct," said Fu Haiyong, another chef at the banquet and executive chef of Chengdu Yingxiang Catering. Sichuan cuisine chefs use pepper and chili, but the cuisine actually consists of 24 unique flavor categories such as those using fish sauce or peanuts, he said.
During the meal, big screens showed diners a live feed of the kitchen so they could get a closer look at what goes behind the scenes in the preparation of the cuisine of Chengdu - a city whose history dates back over 3,000 years.
Since ancient times, the city's surrounding Chengdu Plain has been known as "the land of abundance". This is because of the advanced Dujiangyan Irrigation System, originally built around 256 BC, which meant the area experiences no drought or famine and always has plentiful food in supply - this contributes greatly to Chengdu's experimentation with food.
Relics found in ancient Sichuan tombs date back to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) and include clay figures of chefs and many animals, fruit or vegetable.
Besides being blessed with an abundance of food resources, throughout its history Chengdu has been a major hub of commerce and transportation. The vast amount of merchants and traders that passed through the city brought with them new cooking techniques, spices and other ingredients.
Upon this excellent cooking base, Chengdu is trying to reach out to the world and increase its influence on a global level. The city's inclusiveness and openness has attracted numerous gastronomic talent and renowned catering brands, with over 100,000 catering businesses in the city, according to local figures.
Eight out of 25 of the world's most valuable restaurant brands have a presence in Chengdu, totaling 398 individual outlets, according to research carried out by Brand Finance, a consultancy based in the United Kingdom.
According to food delivery platform Ele.me, the number of Asian food restaurants increased by 56 percent in the first quarter of 2019. Among them, the number of restaurants of Southeast Asian food, and Japanese and South Korean food grew by 251 percent and 186 percent, respectively.