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Sichuan hot pot
April 13, 2012 7:20 PM   Subscribe

Each bite brought a delicate balance between pleasure and pain—deliciously peppery flavor, bought at the price of having your mouth feel like you’d swallowed fire. But the pain was a good pain, somehow. It forced you to slow down and experience each bite, and that’s a rare experience these days. No one mindlessly gobbles Sichuan hot pot, simply because it’s physically impossible to do so without powerful anesthetic.
posted by Trurl (42 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Mecca of Sichuan hot pot is the city of Chengdu.
posted by Trurl at 7:26 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm just about to have dinner and now I'm sad that it isn't Sichuan hot pot.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:43 PM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Soak some of these babies in the chilli oil and prepare for fun.

Just wanted to pull that sentence and observe it without context.




But really, any time assorted sea creatures are on the menu in good food times. Article sent to hot pot buddies, to remind them of hot pot night mouth fun.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:43 PM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


But how are Sichuan Hot Pockets?
posted by desjardins at 7:46 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sichuan hot pot is now on my food bucket list
posted by Renoroc at 7:54 PM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's an amazing hotpot resto in the basement of Calgary's Chinese Cultural Centre called, in English, "Chinese Culture Centre Restaurant." There are lots of options for broth, some not hot at all.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 7:59 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bucket list indeed. The gauntlet has been thrown...stay tuned.
posted by huckleberryhart at 8:03 PM on April 13, 2012


SO GOOD. Sichuan hotpot, eaten in China, for me, was one of a handful of meals in my life that stands out as a transcendent experience. I have tried to recreate it at home but it's never the same, never as good. Weirdly enough, Sichuan peppercorns do have a mild anesthetic effect on your tongue. Here's a coal-fired hotpot bowl; this particular specimen was serving Hui ethnic minority style hotpot: not spicy, heavy on lamb and beef, no seafood. More modern hotpot restaurants have special tables with the bowl sunken into a hole in the center, which makes it easier to dip your food and talk to people across the table.

But how are Sichuan Hot Pockets? Phenomenal.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:05 PM on April 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, and if the people who set food trends are listening, foodie hotpot restaurants would make a great new trend in the US. And let's face it, Phở is so 2004.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:14 PM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


HotPot is the best. One of the few things I truly loved about China.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:27 PM on April 13, 2012


Oh, and if the people who set food trends are listening, foodie hotpot restaurants would make a great new trend in the US
Fat Little Sheep has made its way over here. I've never tried the hot soup base, so I don't know how it compares with Sichuan style food.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:42 PM on April 13, 2012


Oh, man, my ex was OBSESSED with Sichuan hot pot; he'd spent a year and a half in China and spoke near-fluent Mandarin, and when he got back to the states he sought out all these obscure little restaurants here in New York where he could have all the different stuff he'd had in China (there's still this place he told me about once in Queens I need to get to that serves Uighur food).

He found this dumpy little place in Chinatown that did it passably well, and dragged me there once -- they served the broth in a double-sided thing like that, and the hot side just SLAYED me. After I gamely tried a few bites he made me stop because "you're actually turning as red as the broth".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:43 PM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Anyone know where one could potentially get it in Boise (or the general area)? I have a colleague from China who really misses it. If we could find it, it might make a good graduation celebration for him.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:52 PM on April 13, 2012


Oh GOD this making me so HUNGRY!
posted by ninazer0 at 9:01 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ahh, memories - I've never been to China, but in 2009 we visited every hotpot restaurant we could find in Sydney and they constitute one of the few things I miss about that city; maybe half of them had only a subset of the menu translated and no staff who spoke more than broken English. Our restaurant-Chinese skills did improve, but we ate some very strange things along the way.
If you're in Sydney then Shancheng in Chinatown (in a mall off Denison St) is great for traditional style, or 'Yangzhou hotpot' on the north side of Forest Rd in Hurstville has an amazing mix of styles and superior choice of side dishes.
posted by overyield at 9:12 PM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have never in my life dined as ecstatically and enthusiastically as I did when I was in Chengdu. Everywhere else in China, I mostly stuck to thai and vietnamese food because the local stuff was unspeakable, but Chengdu was GLORIOUS. It is where my mouth wants to go when it dies.
posted by elizardbits at 9:39 PM on April 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


God, he makes it sound great, but I have a bad history with spicy food. I had better not risk this.
posted by JHarris at 10:03 PM on April 13, 2012


Huh, I guess the Chengdu version must be something special, because I've tried steamboat here and was totally unimpressed. Random bits of stuff boiled in broth - whoop dee do.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:25 PM on April 13, 2012


I've been to Chengdu more than a few times, but oddly enough never had Hot Pot while there. That said, there were a couple of excellent Hop Pot restaurants close to our old Beijing office that I had many a happy, mouth numbing lunch or dinner at.
posted by michswiss at 10:52 PM on April 13, 2012


EmpressCallipygos: I'd be grateful if you could still remember any of those places. You can PM me if it's too much of a derail.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 11:05 PM on April 13, 2012


Around the Rowland Heights /Monterey Park/ San Gabriel corridor in Southern California there are many good Hot Pot places: Little Sheep is fancy, but not as great as the many small Hole-in-the-Walls which are are 'authentic', flavorful, spicyHOT, cheap & extremely delicious. Also there are usually long lines outside them all.
posted by growabrain at 11:27 PM on April 13, 2012


Even in the small city of Huntington, WV there is a restaurant specializing in authentic Chinese and hot pot. They did the two sided camp cooker bowl mentioned above, one side spicy, one side not. It is a really fun dining experience. The people there like their food HOT though. The second time I went I ordered mine hot (not hot pot this time), even after the waitress suggested that many Americans don't like it that hot. I have had Thai hot style at the local Thai place, so I went for it.

The pain was immediate, intense, and did not subside for a long time. I settled for eating as much as I could quickly and then dealing with the aftermath before starting another round. Chinese hot food at this location went above and beyond anything I had before. This makes me think we need a word in English to describe food other than hot or spicy. Both words can mean different things from what we mean when we say something is really HOT. We need a word that really tells you what you are in for. Tears-streaming-down-my-face and snot-from-the-nose hot. I won't go that far heatwise next time I make it down there.

The place is called Wonderful Restaurant (no kidding) and my friend had a cut of belt fish. I had seen pictures of it before and I was interested too. That fish was the boniest, fishiest fish I have ever tasted. Seriously the bones were like tiny needles threatening your gums and palate with every bite. I do not recommend the belt fish.
posted by Elminster of Labor at 11:42 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ring-sting
posted by moorooka at 11:47 PM on April 13, 2012


A number of years ago I was in Shanghai for work, and ate a number of times at a Hot Pot there. It was just as you all say- the most delicious mouth-numbing meals I coould imagine. My Chinese colleagues took me back again and again.....
A year later, I read that there had been some arrests in Shanghai. Several Hot Pot operators had been found putting opiium poppy pods in the broth... no wonder it was so good....!
posted by drhydro at 12:02 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of the first meals I had in my year teaching in China was hotpot. The head of the English department took us out for lunch, as a kind of get-to-know-the-teachers thing. He could have ordered the pot with the divider, where one side is a relatively mild (and delicious broth) and the other side is orange fire mixed with pain, but he didn't. He went with the full bucket of orange. There was, I recall, a drink bar across the restaurant where we could fill up our tiny, tiny little glasses with soft drinks, none of which dulled the pain at all. I started sweating with my first bite, and I was in agony.

Before China, I couldn't even eat mildly spicy nacho cheese. A year in Wuhan cured me of that, and the hotpot was the first step.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:51 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


ChengDu hotpot is certainly one of the spiciest things I've ever eaten. The small peppercorns do have a numbing effect allowing you to eat hotter than you normally could bear.
posted by arcticseal at 2:37 AM on April 14, 2012


It has been quite some time since I had this fiery dish. Does anyone know of a decent place in Manhattan or Central Jersey that makes this?
posted by caddis at 3:33 AM on April 14, 2012


Fat Little Sheep has made its way over here.

This web page at www.littlesheep.com has been reported as an attack page and has been blocked based on your security preferences.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:38 AM on April 14, 2012


My youngest sister is adopted from Chongqing, so I've had more than one occasion to visit. The food is always the highlight for me, and the pattern is always the same: take a bite, enjoy a brief moment of absolute nirvana, regret taking the bite, 'enjoy' a moment of intense agony, utterly fail to overcome the temptation to repeat the process. It's glorious, and near lethal, and I say that as someone with a fairly tough chilli tolerance. It's the Sichuan peppercorns in combination with all the hot peppers, I reckon.
posted by Dysk at 4:23 AM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Having finished a dish of phaal at New York's Brick Lane Curry House, I'm wondering if anyone can compare how hot this dish is by comparison?
posted by AJaffe at 5:58 AM on April 14, 2012


It's almost certainly hotter. I can quite happily eat phaals, madras curries, vindaloos, et cetera (and had no problem at all with the food in Thailand, for example) but Sichuan cuisine is something else.
posted by Dysk at 8:30 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does anyone know of a decent place in Manhattan or Central Jersey that makes this?

I'm pretty sure there are a couple of awesome sichuan places in Jackson Heights.
posted by elizardbits at 9:04 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


any time assorted sea creatures are on the menu in good food times.

So relatedly...the hot pot place I went to in Chengdu had little seahorses floating about the top of the broth. I don't know if they were supposed to be eaten or just decorative...?
I am not super good at spicy food, and I got along fine in China except in Chengdu. :(
posted by naoko at 9:48 AM on April 14, 2012


It is a pretty good rule of thumb in China (and indeed in most parts of the world) to assume that anything you have been served on your meal plate is meant to be eaten, no matter how unrelated-to-other-food-items-experienced-in-your-life it seems. Especially if it is floating in your hotpot. Or grilled on the end of a skewer by some dude in the street.
posted by elizardbits at 11:06 AM on April 14, 2012


Can anyone tell us what Sichuan Hot Pot is on the ol' Scofield chemical-warfare-against-taste-buds-atrocity scale?
posted by JHarris at 11:15 AM on April 14, 2012


This thread made me go seek out a Chinese grocery across town and buy Sichuan peppers and other asian goods to use to make dinner. In doing so I also discovered that this asian market is beside a restaurant with a 15 EUR all-you-can-eat sichuan hot-pot buffet. This thread gave me a mission for the day, and improved my life in general. So, thank you Trurl.

@JHarris I have no idea what the scofield value is (it probably varies greatly based on how far you are from Sichuan) but the combination of spicy and numbing makes the scofield reading less meaningful since the capsaicin pain is masked.
posted by sixohsix at 11:41 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hm. That makes it almost sound worth trying.
posted by JHarris at 12:24 PM on April 14, 2012


Having finished a dish of phaal at New York's Brick Lane Curry House, I'm wondering if anyone can compare how hot this dish is by comparison?

It is ridiculously hot, but I think the "challenge" with very hot British Asian style curries is the overall richness of the dish in combination with the heat. Despite the heat, hot pots are more subtle eating than the big wash of "gravy" you get in your typical phaal.
posted by howfar at 1:20 PM on April 14, 2012


That fish was the boniest, fishiest fish I have ever tasted. Seriously the bones were like tiny needles threatening your gums and palate with every bite. I do not recommend the belt fish.

Elminster, belt fish was actually my favorite when I was a kid, because the fish bone distribution is so regular -- you get the central spine bits, and then the two rows on either side -- and the bones are so obvious that tearing meat off was a cinch.

What you don't want to deal with is fish like He-Ji-Yu, which have tiny bones randomly embedded in its soft meat. The bones are so tiny that they are more like fine cactus spines than needles. Sometimes these bones can slip detection through all the chewing motion in your mouth, only to land somewhere in your throat. All my relatives, it seems, have a harrowing fish-bone-caught-in-throat story. Fun times! (Tip: if that ever happens to you, swallow some vinegar quickly to soften the bone.)
posted by of strange foe at 1:40 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can anyone tell us what Sichuan Hot Pot is on the ol' Scofield chemical-warfare-against-taste-buds-atrocity scale?

It's actually not that hot compared to, say, munching on a habenero, or ordering five stars at a good Thai restaurant. Its spice comes from Sichuan peppercorns, and (I think?) those dried red chilis that you find in the sauces of lots of spicy Chinese food that aren't meant to be eaten.

But the combination of near-boiling broth, spiciness, and the fact that if you're in Chengdu it's probably sweltering outside --- all of these things together are like a sweat lodge for the soul.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 3:08 PM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is a pretty good rule of thumb in China (and indeed in most parts of the world) to assume that anything you have been served on your meal plate is meant to be eaten, no matter how unrelated-to-other-food-items-experienced-in-your-life it seems. Especially if it is floating in your hotpot.

I suspected/feared that. I admit I skipped the seahorses though - I am a big baby. What is seahorse like?
posted by naoko at 5:20 PM on April 14, 2012


No idea, alas - I shun all the eldritch horrors of the deep in the hopes that when they rise up to slaughter us all and rule the universe I shall be spared.

And also because I am allergic to fishies.
posted by elizardbits at 9:16 PM on April 14, 2012


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