We’ve already written about Sichuan hotpot (you can jump in here and learn about Haidilao hotpot), but here are just a few more fun facts to stash in your Chengdu cuisine storehouse.
Let’s face it, any visitor to Chengdu has to try a traditional Sichuan hotpot, but if the mere thought of chili brings on a sweat, don’t feel there are no options other than hot and spicy because there are.
With food – and the sharing of food – such a vitally important aspect of life in China, it’s no wonder that Sichuan hotpot is so popular. It is indeed a ritual, one that draws family and friends together around bubbling basins of broth, with each individual able to select and cook their own food.
As with every Chinese dish, there is a story.
It is said that the Sichuan hotpot emerged as a specialty of Chongqing, where laborers and fishermen working on the Yangtze River devised the hot pot using offal, poaching it in spicy oil to disguise the pungent odors. Thankfully, hotpot evolved from its origins, with the original version enhanced with enriching ingredients (think cinnamon, ginger, garlic, fragrant spices, and Sichuan bean paste).
Recognizing we can’t all endure the hottest of spicy hotpots, Chengdu restaurateurs adapted, with most offering a divided hotpot, allowing diners to cook their food in either (or both) a spicy or mildly flavored broth. Traditionally, locals will choose beef tripe and other offal, but in Chengdu, you will find western palates well catered for with meats, poultry, vegetables, and tofu also available. Expect an array of flavors too: mild, moderate, and super hot. And for the adventurous? Why not try a fish head hotpot or medical herbs hotpot?