AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Sichuan Hot Pot

A speciality of Sichuan Provence is the hot-pot. It’s listed as a must do in the area and there’s plenty of restaurants in Chengdu which serve nothing but hot pot.

After wandering around Chengdu all afternoon we were looking for somewhere to eat and saw one of these hot-pot eateries. We were looking curiously through the door and we were beckoned in. The tables were square, with benches on all four sides and a big hole in the centre of each table. We sat down, wondering what to do next. We must have looked confused because someone from another table came and sat with us and went through the menu. I said before how friendly and helpful the people in Chengdu seem to be and this was no exception. He read out the main parts (meat and veg) and we chose a few. He then said he’d add a couple of poplar dishes. That took us to 6 dishes. We thought that was enough. He told us most people order 16 dishes. We’ve noticed that in many restaurants where people are eating in a group they will order probably double the amount of food they need and then leave most of it. We insisted that 6 would be fine. We had beef, fish, yam, potato, tomatoes and a big fat noodle thing. He asked how spicy we liked it, hot, medium or not very. Medium should be fine. We thanked him and he left us.

A huge pot consisting of two sections was brought over and placed in the hole in the table. The gas under it was lit. The centre pot was water but surrounding it was a ring of oil filled with big red chillies and peppercorns. This was going to be a hot meal!

Sichuan Hot Pot

Sichuan Hot Pot

Sichuan Hot Pot

The food started arriving. Small dishes of frozen beef, frozen whole fish, tomato chunks, sliced potato, sliced yam and these weird noodle ribbons. We had no idea what to do. So the waitress did most of the work for us. She asked where we wanted each piece, in the water or in the spicy section. Then we were left to wait for it to cook.

Sichuan Hot Pot

We started fishing around for food. At the beginning it wasn’t too spicy. This was good. The fish was especially good. It was whole and full of bones, but the bits we nibbled off were delicious. As the meal went on the food got hotter and by the time we were eating the last few bits of food it had reached eye watering heat. With hindsight I guess you’re supposed to put in only a few of each dish at a time, and then while eating them have the next bits cooking. We didn’t know and just chucked it all in. There was only one downside, the meal was very oily. The dish to put the food in after it was cooked was a bowl of oil. We avoided using those bowls and tried our best to let the oil drip off the food which had just cooked, but it still had a very oily and slimy consistency. The food was very good but the oil did spoil it a bit.

Andrew Eating Sichuan Hot Pot

Sichuan Hot Pot

Overall it was a very nice meal and certainly worth trying. It cost us £11 which isn’t bad in the grand scheme of meals, although quite a bit higher than our usual meal on this trip! Maybe we’ll get it again now we know how it’s supposed to be done.

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