20 November 2018
Fancy a Sichuan hotpot? This is not a ‘hotpot’ as you may know it. No, no, no. This is something entirely different as I found out. I like it hot and I can take hot. But this is in a league of its own. I bet you are you wondering what it is. It is simply a spicy broth and oil, on a burner, placed in the middle of the dining table. In it goes tons of chilli, Sichuan peppercorns, and other spices. You are now talking hot, hot, hot. You are served with your choice of meat and vegetables. You cook your vegetables in the inner container filled with broth. And the meat is cooked in the spicy oil in the outer container.
There is a real skill in co-ordinating your cooking as you have to fish them out at the right time with your chopsticks, otherwise, they will be overcooked or undercooked. As you can imagine we were not very good at this but it was great fun. For us tourist, a slotted spoon was also given to us. They knew from experience that we would have difficulty with our chopsticks. They also gave us aprons, again, I am sure they have learned from experience that we would be messy. Fellow travellers on my table were a little more adventurous than the not so hot table and added tripe and liver to our meat selection. The strange thing was the food was very filling and great fun.
We were lucky to have the service of a brilliant guide who was able to order and sort us out into two tables – hot and less hot. She had asked us about the level of heat before ordering and the type of vegetables and meat. I was naturally in the “hot“ group. Some of my fellow travellers ordered beer to drink. Big mistake. Even the weakest beer didn’t help them.
I found out that eating hotpot in a restaurant in Chongqing is an event, a party, and celebration. The restaurant was very busy with groups of diners, at least five to a table, eating, laughing and having a great time. No one was in hurry to leave. The hotpot is the star attraction and has the diners undivided attention. This is a food experience like no other.
If you are in Chongqing and want to give this a try, ask your guide or hotel receptionist for recommendations. Avoid eating in the tourist areas of Chongqing like Hon Da Dong. The quality wont match a reliable local spot.
What is the hottest food you have ever eaten?
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