Sichuan hotpot was a crazy concept, so simple yet so delicious. Take a little (or a lot) of fresh ingredients and throw them into a sizzling hot pot of stock floating with peppercorn and chili oil. The Chinese fondue cooks the food and infuse it with the distinctly hot and spicy taste.
There’s no rule to what you can dump into the hotpot. But for Sichuan hotpot, you would try to avoid stuff that would soak up the floating chili oil. Just look at the chunk of chili butter in the pot!
This was just normal spicy. Imagine if you order extreme spicy – yes, there’s the option – you could be bombarded by more chunks of chili oil.
I would recommend that for the uninitiated to go with a Yuan Yang Guo, literally meaning a “Mandarin Duck” pot. Mandarin ducks always come in a pair, so for a Yuan Yang, you get to choose two stock bases. One would always be the 麻辣汤底 Numb and Spicy Stock, and the other is up to you. Tonight, we went with the perennial favourite of Mushroom Clear Stock 菌汤鸳鸯锅.
The essentials for hotpot – frozen tofu 冻豆腐 was chosen as it sinks into the soup base avoiding the oily surface and the cavities in the tofu soak in the goodness without the oil、yamakurage or balloonflower 贡菜 is a crunchy vegetable that does not absorb the oil as well、nagaimo or Chinese yam 山药 is starchy and cooks well、enoki mushroom 金针菇 is crunchy and goes well with a little chili oil、crown daisy 蓬蒿菜 is not put in the mala side of pot as it will soak up all the oil but it gives a really nice basil like taste when blanched in stock.
If the pot was not spicy enough, you could order this Mala Beef 麻辣牛肉. Literally meaning Numb and Spicy Beef, the slices of beef were marinated in an insane amount of chili and peppercorn. Simply by looking at the plate of beef would make you salivate. But putting it in your mouth, you cannot feel anything except pain. I have absolutely no idea why anyone would put oneself through such agony.
But after destroying your taste buds with the first piece, the senses returned after a while and then something in your mind triggered the “Have One More” signal, and the pattern repeated itself. 续嘴 Suah Chui as what we say in dialect.
One of my favourite fish to go with the spicy hotpot is Yellow Catfish 黄辣丁. The first time I had this fish was in Chengdu. There they served the fish alive (or pretty much half dead, as they were gutted while they were still alive). So when they threw the fish into the boiling pot (through a conical funnel to prevent splashing), the fish jumped in the cone and caused quite a ruckus.
The yellow catfish has very little fine bones, making it the ideal fish to boil. All you need to do is to put the fish into your mouth, tail in first, and slide the flesh away from the bones as you pull out the fish. Be careful not to ripped your mouth in this action as there is still a hard saw-like back bone that would cut you if you are not careful
The flesh is tender like catfish and can have mud taste. So the peppercorns and chili covered the mud taste. Delicious.
My favourite was the goose intestine 九尺鹅肠. This is one hotpot ingredient we could not get in Singapore any more as there’s no more goose.
All hotpot places are noisy, smoky, steamy. So they are not for dates. And children should not go without proper supervision. It is boiling oil and water we are talking about. And every hotpot place has its specialty – Haidilao for service, 大龙焱 for their really spicy hotpot.
Date visited : Mar 2018