Sichuan hot pot dates back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) when it was first created in a small town along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River. Local boatmen cooked a kind of spicy soup with vegetable, meat and hot peppers to help them keep warm in the humid, cold weather. Over hundreds of years, hot pot evolved to become a major in Sichuan Cuisine.
Sichuan Cuisine is one of four major schools of Chinese Cuisine, along with Guangdong Cuisine, Jiangsu Cuisine and Shandong Cuisine. Hot pot is the most famous and favorite dish in Sichuan, which is noted for its peppery and hot taste, powerful yet fresh and tender. Traditionally hot pot is eaten in winter. The boiling liquid, meat, and spices all contribute to the warming of the body and soul, instantly taking the chill out of winter. But now people don’t mind what season it is, hot pot is popular at any time.
Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, has more than 2,000 hot pot restaurants and every restaurant has different recipe for the soup base. Basically it can be divided into “Red Pot” (spicy hot pot flavor), the “White Pot” (non-spicy), and “Mandarin Duck Pot” with half spicy and half clear soup which often satisfies a range of tastes. The essence of Sichuan hot pot lies in the broth, which contains oil, wine, sugar, spice and Chinese prickly ash.
Many kinds of dipping sauces are available. Among them, the sesame dip is the most common and popular one, which is made from ground sesame seeds (paste) and sesame oil and often topped with coriander. According to your personal taste, you can add some other condiments, such as garlic, spring onion and chili oil, either to the soup or the sauce.
You can put any meat and vegetables including beef, pork, lamb, fish, mushrooms, winter melon, lettuce, potato, lotus root, tofu, rice noodles, dumplings, or egg, seafood, and so much more, almost everything edible into the pot.
Then, get ready to enjoy the big meal – delicious Sichuan hot pot!