A rabbit dish, in Sichuan's signature spicy style.
Food

Sichuan alone consumes more than half of rabbit meat in China

Jul 13, 2018

Unlike in Europe, rabbit meat is fairly uncommon as a food source in China. The exception is the southwest province of Sichuan, which consumes 60 percent of the 500 million rabbits consumed annually in the country.

Its capital, Chengdu, is in the Sichuan basin, which is flanked by mountains on all sides, said Sichuanese chef, Jenny Gao. “The land is so fertile because of the warm and wet climate. It's actually a perfect breeding ground for rabbits and rabbits of course, breed like rabbits.”

The availability and tastiness of rabbit meat has made it a beloved local staple, she said. “It’s lean and healthy, so you have stewed, fried, and baked rabbit. Sichuan people are ingenious with the many ways they’ve thought to prepare it.”

It’s lean and healthy, so you have stewed, fried, and baked rabbit.

Gao’s family has its own twist on the protein. Growing up, her grandfather made a rabbit salad crafted with shredded smoked rabbit meat, vermicelli, carrots, leek, celtuce, and a thorough marinade of chili sauce and vinegar.

A market store in Chengdu selling rabbit meat.
A market store in Chengdu selling rabbit meat. / Photo: Goldthread

Growing up in Guanghan, a city right on the outskirts of Chengdu, there are two rabbit specialties: yarn-wrapped rabbit (缠丝兔) and red rabbit (红兔). It’s a testament to the versatility of the ingredient; different parts of Sichuan have different ways of preparing rabbit.

“The yarn stretches out the body of the rabbit and the meat becomes stringy like a confit,” Gao says of the yarn-wrapped rabbit.  

Diced rabbit meat is otherwise the most commonly found dish in Sichuan, often sauteed with chilis and peanuts and served with the bones still in.

Most outsiders tend to fixate on a local delicacy, spicy rabbit heads, but locals don’t consider it all that exotic, nor rabbit meat in the first place. For many Sichuanese people, rabbit is a symbol of home, and the definition of comfort food.

More reading:

French Rabbit Heads: The Newest Delicacy in Chinese Cuisine, Wall Street Journal

一年消灭近3亿只,四川人为什么爱吃兔兔?Guan Cha Zhe 

法媒:四川年啃3亿个辣兔头 消费太火不得不进口肉兔Can Kao Xiao Xi