Hot pot, one of China’s signature dishes, has been a mainstay of Sichuan province for centuries, the dish style having over a thousand years of history behind it. In China, one of the most famous styles is Chongqing’s má là (麻辣), a mix of numbing flavours and hot spices. The sensations bring about an eating experience unfamiliar to most traditional western dishes, the cooling numbing flavour of the Hua jaio (花椒) balanced by the fiery hotness of the chili peppers. Inherently social, hot pot is rarely eaten alone, generally involving family and friends waiting in eager anticipation for the spice soaked pieces to be cooked in the communal pot.
With Chengdu having its own native style, we decided to try chuanchuan hot pot. Different from the more common Chongqing variety, chuanchuan can be identified through the use of skewers to cook the meat, the skewers resting along the edge of the pot as the meats and vegetables soak in the broth. For a couple of students, this was their first time eating hot pot. A few tepid skewers in to the meal, the pace picked up leaving a mound of wood in our wake, filling out hungry stomachs with an assortment of pork ribs, shrimps, tofu wraps, and a wide variety of vegetables. Eaten with a couple of cool beers, it was the perfect way to cap off a warm Chengdu evening!