This is a local variation on a regional dish called Szechuan Hotpot. It is exceptionally spicy and is generally served with two cooking pots. One with chillie and the other without. It's not a popular tourist food because of the heat but it is very delicious and if you keep to the non-chillie boiler, a delighful dish. It's a great meal to enjoy in the restaurants on the bank of the Yangtze in Chongqing waiting for the cruiser to set sail .


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Yield: 6 servings



Ingredients:

  • 250 gm  (8 oz) boneless skinless chicken breast thinly sliced
  • 250 gm  (8 oz) beef tenderloin sliced very thin
  • 250 gm  (8 oz)  shrimp peeled, deveined
  • 30 gm (1 oz) assorted dried mushrooms soaked in hot water for 25 minutes
  • ¼ small napa cabbage head thinly sliced
  • 40 gm (1 ½ oz) bean thread noodles soaked in cold water to cover for 10 minutes, drained and cut into 4" lengths
  •  1 cup bean sprouts
  •  Chili oil (optional)
  •  Freshly-ground Sichuan pepper (optional)


 
FOR THE HOT POT

  • 2 litres (2 qrts) water
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) rice wine
  • 45 ml (3 tbsp) black bean-garlic sauce
  • 30 ml ( 2 tbsp) light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Hot bean sauce to taste (optional)


Method:

  1. Arrange the chicken, beef and shrimp on a serving platter. Drain the mushrooms and remove and discard the stems. Squeeze out the excess water and arrange on a platter with the cabbage, noodles and bean sprouts. Place the chili oil and Sichuan pepper in small dipping bowls.
  2. To prepare the hot pot, in a large fondue pot over high heat, bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the rice wine, black bean-garlic sauce, soy sauce, salt and hot bean sauce. Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, skimming off any froth that accumulates on the surface.
  3. Using pot holders, carefully place the fondue pot with the hot broth on the stand and keep warm according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  4. Instruct guests to skewer their own selection of meats and shrimp, 1 or 2 pieces at a time, onto fondue forks, then cook in the hot stock. Guests may want to dip the cooked food in the chili oil or Sichuan pepper before eating. (Be sure to remove the food from the hot fork before eating.) When all the meat and shrimp have been cooked and eaten, add the mushrooms, cabbage, noodles and bean sprouts to the stock and heat through. Ladle into bowls and eat as a soup.
This recipe yields 6 servings.

There are a number of Hotpot dipping sauces  for this dish. A great introduction is from an HK expat here. One of the most simple mixtures enjoyed on the streets of Kuala Lumpur is simply a mix of ketchup, Chillie Sauce and a BBQ sauce.

Experience:

Szechuan has great cuisine and foods. It's the food-bowl of China because of fertile soils and good precipitation, warm non-winter months. The bounty is reflected in a couple of ways: The generosity of the people especially when it comes to food and this includes city stall and barrow vendors. The servings are very big or very inexpensive and usually both. The flavours are quite varied and the use of meat is considerably apparent and often with higher than Chinese average amounts. this covers meats like chicken, beef and pork. Fish is another abundant food.

Spiciness is a flavour that is part of the Szechuan cuisine signature. Chillies are often used or chillie oil as frequently and abundantly. The use of oil per se is quite high. Szechuan pepper is used selectively. The use of strong herbs surprises me a little. It seems not hold to the belief that poor quality or insufficient amounts of food were spiced up to add flavour or suppress appetite. Szechuan on average wouldn't be short on food throughout the year so there is obviously other reasons for this cuisines evolution. It may of course simply be enjoyment and while it's available then use it.

Chongqing in certain area has a noticeable tourist profile. particularly around the passenger docks. There is an abundance of restaurants within meters of the boat pier. Travelers mainly Chinese often do a one way boat trip from Chong Qing down the Yangtze through the Three Gorges and disembark at any of a number of places after the Gezhoba Dam in Yichang. (The reverse trip is also popular). The boats tend to disembark in the evening and although many have an optional meal prior to departure the restaurants in Chong Qing are quite geared up to promote their food and service. There are a number of Five Star cruisers plying the Yangtze and these travelers haven't been ignored by small business in Chong Qing.

Chong Qing Hot Pot is a popular dish in restaurants nearby the boat station. Typically they have the dish as described in the above recipe. There's not much variation. The variation though is the price. A typical serving or seating per person would be 20 to 30 Yuan per head on the high side. Chong Qing has an  airport and many people land in Chong Qing as their arrival port or their first significant stop on the mainland. They tend to be naive on prices and many of the touts or owners play a little on this. The prices are often not listed or listed in Chinese characters. Of course the customer will probably ask the price per person. the answer may be a surprising 100 Yuan per head!. There probably are people who would pay this without negotiating but it is an outrageous price. One way to edl with the issue is to quietly smile and explain that it's not what you expected and appear to be leaving the restaurant. Chances are you will be re-engaged with a hefty drop in price and a pleasant banter of what is included for your price. It's a clever non-confronting style and the generosity culture seems to re-emerge.

It's always good to find out what additional plates of food will cost before replenishing. That's probably a long shot need because of the generous servings of ingredients served to the table initially. So a two dollar to $3.60 per head meal is a good deal and there are many who would be able to get the same meal for a considerably lower price. I'm happy with a 2 to 4 dollar meal of this quality and size with the drinks included within the 4 dollar range.

Staff assistance is never short on so take all the tips that you can from waiters and waitresses often proprietor's family and show your pleasure. It makes a good meal a great occasion.