Sichuan Hot Pot

As a signature meal of Chongqing and Sichuan cuisine, and one of the most popular Chinese food, Sichuan hot pot is a delicious and fun way to enjoy a variety of ingredients cooked in a flavorful broth. Diners choose their own selection of meat and vegetables and dip them into the boiling pot at their table.

The ingredients for hot pots of different styles mainly include beef, mutton, seafood, and vegetables. The stock used in Cantonese hotpot is light in taste, while the Sichuan hotpot features hot and spicy stock, which enhances the flavor of the meat and vegetables.

A special spice known as huā jiāo (also known as "flower pepper" or Sichuan Pepper, or Prickly Ash) is added to the Sichuan hot pot. Combined with spicy ingredients like chili, it creates a sensation on the tongue that is both spicy and slightly numbing, almost like carbonated beverages.

If you are planning to visit Chengdu or Chongqing, don't miss the hot pot! In this post, we’ll tell you what Sichuan hot pot is and show you how to make Sichuan hot pot at home.

Spicy Sichuan Hot Pot

What is Sichuan Hot Pot

Sichuan hot pot (四川火锅, Sichuan hotpot, Szechuan hot pot) is a type of hot and spicy Chinese fondue. In this dish, you cook various ingredients in a pot of simmering broth that is flavored with tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorns (which are the most important ingredient), chili peppers, garlic, ginger, and other spices.

You can choose from a variety of raw and frozen ingredients to cook in Sichuan hot pot broth, such as meat, seafood, meatballs, tofu, vegetables, noodles and more. The cooked food is usually eaten with a dipping sauce made of sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, and other seasonings.

As its name suggests, Sichuan hot pot originated in the Sichuan province of China at the beginning of the 20th century. In the olden days, port workers and fishermen in the Sichuan region could not afford a standard piece of meat, so they ate offal instead. They cook the offal in a spicy broth to disguise its unpleasant flavors.

Sichuan hot pot broth can be either spicy, mild, or a combination of both, known as "Yuanyang Hot Pot". Yuan Yang (鸳鸯) is the Chinese name for the mandarin duck. Yuanyang is a component of the hot pot's name because Yuan Yang frequently occurs in pairs, just like the dual-sided pot's double-flavored broth where you can enjoy both the spicy and non-spicy soup base.

Yuanyang Hot Pot

Why is Sichuan Hot Pot So Spicy

The special spice Sichuan pepper, known as 花椒 (huā jiāo) in Chinese, is also called "flower pepper" or Sichuan peppercorn, or Chinese prickly ash. It combines with spicy ingredients like chili to create a sensation on the tongue that is both spicy and slightly numbing, similar to the sensation of carbonated beverages.

Sichuan pepper used for Sichuan hotpot

How to Make Sichuan Hot Pot

Chinese Sichuan hot pot is not only a delicious meal, but also a great way to connect with friends and family. Everyone can pick their favorite ingredients and customize their own dipping sauce flavors. To enjoy Sichuan hot pot cuisine, you need to find a good hot pot restaurant or buy a hot pot set for your home. How to make Sichuan hot pot, then?

1. Preparation

To make Sichuan hot pot at home, first you need to prepare a few things:

- A big pot or electric skillet. In China, people also use a induction cooker (or portable burner) to keep the broth boiling on the table.
- A long handle strainer scoop or soup ladle to scoop out the cooked ingredients.
- Bowls for each person to hold their sauce and cooked food.
- Plenty of variety ingredients you want to cook in the Sichuan hot pot broth.
- Some ingredients to create your own dipping sauce.

Sichuan Hot Pot Induction Cooker and Big Pot

2. Buy Ingredients for Sichuan Hot Pot Cooking

You can choose from a variety of fresh and raw ingredients to cook in the Sichuan hot pot broth. Here are some common Sichuanese hot pot ingredients ideas:

- Meat: thinly sliced beef, lamb, or pork, sliced chicken, pork
- Seafood: thin-cut fish fillets (such as sea bass), shrimp, crab, squid
- Tofu: tofu skin, soft tofu, firm tofu, fried tofu puffs, konjak tofu
- Vegetables: napa cabbage, lettuce, spinach, mushrooms, potato, yam, winter guard, corn
- Noodles: rice noodles, wheat noodles, glass noodles
- Others: Chinese dumplings, quail eggs, meatballs, fish balls, shrimp paste, sausages

In China, people also eat animal offal cuts and organs like brain, liver, kidney, beef tongue, beef tripe, duck/goose intestine, cow throat, beef spinal cord, etc.

Ingredients for Sichuan Hot Pot

3. Make Sichuan Hot Pot Soup Base

How to make Sichuan hot pot soup base? The traditional Sichuanese hot pot is spicy. In this Sichuan hot pot recipe, we will show you how to make a spicy hot pot broth. However, if you don't enjoy spicy food, you can substitute chicken stock, duck broth, or mushroom soup instead. You can modify this Sichuan hot pot soup base to suit your tastes.

1. Prepare chicken stock, ginger, garlic, Sichuan peppercorns, dried chilies, star anise, bay leaves, Chinese cinnamon, cloves, and oil.

2. In a wok over medium heat, add oil, ginger, garlic, Sichuan peppercorns, dried chilies, star anise, bay leaves, Chinese cinnamon, and cloves. Cook for a few minutes until fragrant. Be careful not to burn them.

3. Add the chicken stock and bring it to a boil. Then, lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. 

4. Strain the broth and discard the solids. Transfer the broth to the pot or electric skillet that you will be using for your Sichuan hot pot dinner. The pot should be at least 6 inches deep and quite wide.

If you don’t want to make your own Sichuan hot pot soup base from scratch at home, you have the option to buy a pre-made Sichuan hot pot base and follow the instructions provided on the packaging. Usually, you just need to add some water or stock to dilute it and bring it to a boil.

Sichuan Hot Pot Soup Base

4. Make Sichuan Hot Pot Dipping Sauce

After the eye-wateringly spicy Sichuan hot pot soup base is ready, you need to make the dipping sauce. Sichuanese hot pot dipping sauce ingredients include: sesame oil, chili oil, Sichuan peppercorn oil, chili paste, sesame paste, Chinese black vinegar, soy sauce, sacha sauce, chopped chilies, chopped garlic, chopped cilantro, chopped scallions, etc.

My personal simple sauce recipe at home is:

- 2 tablespoons of Chinese black vinegar
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
- 1/2 chopped chilies
- 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon of chopped scallions
- 1/2 cup of sesame oil

The dipping sauce taste is a thing of personal preference. If you are new to hot pot, you can combine different condiments to find out which combination of the dipping sauce you like best.

Sichuan Hot Pot Dipping Sauce

How to Eat Sichuan Hot Pot

Place the prepare ingredients around the Sichuan hot pot soup base, bring the broth to a boil, and add whatever you want to the bubbling broth. Then enjoy and eat Sichuan hot at your pace and as you please, either dumping all things in at once or cook ingredients gradually.

Add extra chicken stock or boiling water to the pot if the broth evaporates. Bring it to a low boil again before adding more ingredients.

Sichuan Hot Pot Meal

Eat Like a Local with Our China Food Tours

If you love spicy food, or feel adventurous enough to truly experience Chinese food culture like a local, pick one of our gastronomic tours of China, or customize your own China food tour. Here are a few China food tour packages for your inspiration.

10-day Taste of China Top Cuisines
15-day China Cooking & Foodie Tour
4-day Chengdu Food Tour

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