Sichuan cuisine: The shared pleasure of spicy hotpot

Print E-mail CNTV, June 24, 2014
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In this Chinese food series, our reporter Liu Yang takes us to China's southwest Sichuan province—and we get a taste of what it's like to have hotpot from the province known as the land of abundance.

Sichuan food is often spicy, oily, and deep-fried which makes for a sinful palette. But as some foodies will note, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

"Many people thought Sichuan food is just spicy and hot flavors, from the traditional sense, Sichuan food is not all spicy, a very traditional Sichuan food like stewed cabbage is not spicy at all." Wang Donghai, Chef of Intercontinental Chengdu Global Center said.

Wang says each Sichuan dish is distinctive in its own taste, with a full dinner spread combining hundreds of flavors. And at dinner time about 7pm, many come here to satisfy their hotpot cravings.

There used to be no need to line up outside a hotpot restaurant. But over recent years, it has become increasingly popular. And on the weekend, in many cities, particularly in Sichuan province, there are queues of people waiting for hours outside restaurants for a table.

Hotpot is popular throughout China, and dates back hundreds of years to the Qing dynasty. But contemporary Chinese hotpot varies from region to region—and satisfies different tastebuds.

This is a typical Chinese hotpot—steaming with two divided sections or flavors. One comes with a spicy oil base filled with ingredients like flower peppers and watercress for the adventurous, and the other type, (if you are like me) is just the standard light flavored broth. We ordered mostly veggies (vegetables) here but of course you can also order many different types of meat.

Each Sichuan hotpot restaurant has its own style and secret recipe. And many say the hotpot experience is not just about eating. It is a close gathering and the shared experience of cooking around a boiling pot.

"The hotpot eliminates the extra body moisture, it is very comfortable to talk and eat in this environment with friends and families." a guest said.

Each type of food in China depicts culture and history unique to its local place; Sichuan food embodies over 5,000 years of history, and just like its spicy hotpot, leaves an impression of a people full of vigor and personality.

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