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Visiting China Online | The Delicious Chongqing Cuisine

2002/05/19
China Cultural Center in Den Hang

Hot and Spicy Hot Pot

When it comes to Chongqing, there is a delicious food that must be mentioned, that is "hot pot". The spicy hot pot originated from Chongqing Yangtze River shipping terminal is not only there presentative of Chongqing cuisine, but also the perfect display of the unique temperament of the city.

Hot pot can be seen everywhere in Chongqing. There are only 10,000 taxis in Chongqing, but there are more than 20,000 hot pot stores. You may not get a taxi on the street, but you can definitely eat hotpot. Chongqing is a city that is not afraid of spicy food. Our hot pot can be extremely spicy, medium spicy and mild spicy. You can enjoy Sichuan Opera, magic acrobatics and other characteristic cultural performances while eating hot pot, and slowly feel the temperature of this city.

Numbness

The numbness in Chongqing hotpot comes from the Sichuan Peppercorn, a type of unique seasoning that goes by many names, none of which are common in the west. The numbing peppers are grown throughout Chongqing and Sichuan, and they are necessary ingredient to hotpot. Together with the hot peppers, the numbing flavour of the peppercorn brings out and magnifies the spice, creating an intense blend of intoxicating excitement in your mouth. The Chinese also believe that the numbness and spiciness combined can drive out the "cold" in the body that causes illnesses and protect it from pain.

Spice

Spice, of course, comes from spicy peppers. Peppers aren’t native to China but were brought over in the 16th century from Central and South America, where they originated. In the beginning, the peppers were actually just ornamental and were used for viewing and decoration. Not so in Chongqing, where the peppers were put into immediate use. By the high Qing (around 300 years ago), the peppers were recorded by literati as being used in Sichuan hotpot (Chongqing was once part of Sichuan) as being "hot broth, numb and fresh with an intense flavour that never gets old".

Freshness

Freshness, of course, comes from the preparation of the food itself, and determines its quality. In Chongqing hotpot, having fresh ingredients that go into the pot is an important part of the overall quality of the flavour, and is highly regarded by Chongqing locals. This can be seen from the fact that the locals all know by heart the amount it takes to cook the food that goes in the steaming broth to the maximum amount of freshness without being overcooked. 8 seconds for tripe, 12 seconds for duck intestines… you get the point!


Savoury

"Savoury", "flavourful" or "aroma" is a word that is difficult to translate into English, but basically encompasses the flavour palate that is made of up the multitude of spices that go into hotpot. For example, douban (a paste mixture of hot spices), star anise, cinnamon, geranium, and so on. Imagine a pot full of spicy broth, mixed with dozens of seasonings and spices, put on a fire, slow cooking (or fast cooking) your fresh duck intestines to perfection! The savoury aroma from a hotpot place fills the streets and corners of Chongqing and is enough to get your mouth watering!

Presentation

The oil used in the spicy broth of Chongqing hot pot is made from beef fat, which adds a shiny, smooth and hearty texture to the broth, combined with the pungent flavor of the spices and peppers, create an appearance that can be likened to smooth red satin, firing up the taste buds of all who see it!

Flavour

The flavour here means not only the actual flavour of the hot pot but the "flavour" of the daily lives of the people in Chongqing. There is a saying here: "there isn’t anything that can’t be solved over a hot pot, if not one, then two!" A steaming, bubbling cauldron of spicy broth, surrounded by a couple of your best friends, in a soggy-cold winter’s day is enough to warm your heart and raise the spirits.

Xiao Mian Chongqing

People from other places may have heard about Chongqing Hotpot, bridges, or mountains, but there is a dish which is more popular and customer-friendly - Xiao Mian. It refers to Chongqing noodles, local fast food made with fresh herbs and spices. Most important of all, it can be made to order, with unique spicy-numbly flavour that the locals love most.

The locals love Xiao Mian as much as they love hotpot and enjoy it in the morning, lunch, dinner or night. In the morning, many small, hole-in-the-wall street-side Xiao Mian restaurants are thronged with people, who choose Xiao Mian to start the day. No matter who you are, an office worker on their way to work, or a "stick-stick" porter starting another hard day of work early birds often get their morning’s energy for working or studying from spicy and delicious Xiao Mian. Xiao Mian is true "the people’s food". For those Chongqing locals far away from home, Xiao Mian is their "comfort food", and they often choose XiaoMian as the first meal when they come back.

Chuan Chuan




Even though hot pot is Chongqing’s most famous food, recently a new rival has emerged: chuan chuan. Chuan chuan, meaning something like "skewered food" is a sort of remix of the classic hot pot theme. Unlike traditional hot pot, however, the ingredients of chuan chuan are skewered on sticks and then placed in the boiling oil within a clay or iron pot, making it more convenient to pick up the food after it is cooked in the pot.

The locals in Chongqing come to that kind of Chuan Chuan Restaurant from all districts to satisfy their taste buds but not for novelty or following. Many Chuan Chuan restaurants locate downstairs of an old residential building or in the labyrinthine laneways, and you would not be surprised to see the crowds inside and lines outside when visiting or just passing by every time. The variety of dishes, unique taste and the affordable price impress visitors and keep them coming back for more.

Special thanks to: Chongqing Municipal Development Committee of Culture and Tourism

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