Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sichuan hotpot

I like it hot. But the residents of the Sichuan province in China like it really hot. Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan and is known for its fiery hotpots. There's also a belief that the temperament of the people that hail from the different provinces correlate to their food styles. The Cantonese are more subtle and delicate, Beijing-ers are blunt and the Sichuanese are said to have flaring tempers to match their spicy meals.

The other bowl is filled with boiling oiling and chilis, as well as various medicinal herbs. The inner pot has a mild soup, this one is seafood based, the one at the bottom is mushroom based. In the first picture all of the tiny black dots you see in the mild bowl are the little eyes of salted shrimp.

The dipping sauce is a combination of sesame oil, vinegar, oyster sauce, salt, MSG, sugar, garlic and coriander. She was horrified when I asked her to leave out the MSG. And then later I was horrified when I realized at the end of the meal that my bowl was empty and I had just consumed close to a full cup of sesame oil. But sesame oil is so good.

The way hotpot works is you order loads of food and then cook it in the hotpot and eat it piece by piece. This is a process that can take a very long time depending on your pace. Usually there are a lot of vegetables, a lot of meat and then random stuff like tofu, duck blood, dumplings, noodles and other random odds and ends.

Dipping things in the outer bowl of hot oil is dangerous--it's spicy enough that it had me coughing and in tears. My technique was to cook it in the mild bowl and then dunk an edge in the oil before eating it. Just enough for a little kick.

These pics were taken at ChongQing QinMa Hotpot (重庆亲妈伙埚) in Chengdu.

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