We spent one night in ChengDu at the ShuFeng Hotel. It was a very nice hotel with a contemporary design and all amenities. We went to dinner to have hot pot. ChengDu means “perfect metropolis” and is the capital of Sichuan Province. It has about 12 million people and is very diverse culturally and economically.
They love hot, spicy food. We went to a busy restaurant specializing in hot pot. We sat next to the window at a table with a large flame thrower in the center. We were the only ones who spoke English; our three waitresses spoke Chinese. They had (kind of) an English menu. Our first choice was what kind of stock: pig’s feet or carp. We ordered about a dozen items. They brought a large cauldron with the carp. In the center was the mild stock and the outside circle was red and spicy. Our three waitresses brought out tray after tray of food. They fired up the flame thrower and brought the stock to a boil.
They started by putting the meat in. The thinly sliced beef was delicious. They taught me an advanced chopstick technique for getting the meat out of the stock. Passerbys outside stopped to watch the waitresses teach us how to cook and eat hot pot. My first reaction was the hot spicy part was not nearly as hot or spicy as I anticipated. Then we moved on to the mushrooms, bok choy, bean sprouts and lots of vegetables.
Maybe because the boiling stock was becoming more concentrated or maybe because the effect of the pepper was cumulative, but I took off my long-sleeve shirt and sweat was beading up on my forehead. I think the stock had a lot of sesame oil in it and it initially tempered the spiciness. The grand finale was sweet potato linguine. The dough was apparently a magnet for spice because my entire mouth and stomach went on fire. The following morning I could still taste the hot pot. I must say I enjoyed it and would definitely have it again.
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