Citizens, ’tis the dead of Winter and thus the time for hotpot is at hand! Hot pot (also known as steamboat in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, China and Brunei), refers to several Asian varieties of stew, consisting of a simmering metal pot of stock at the center of the dining table. You’ll need a hotpot to make this, of course – you can buy a fine one from Amazon here. It will prove useful for many other hotpot-type dishes and even fondue, if necessary!
While the hot pot is kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table. Typical hot pot dishes include thinly sliced meat, leaf vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, egg dumplings, and seafood. The cooked food is usually eaten with a dipping sauce. Hot pot meals are usually eaten in the winter during supper time.
Of all the varietals on this family tree of savor, perhaps my favorite is the spicy-hot Sichuan version, especially as served in the provincial city of Chongqing, the chili-head capital of this province of spice fanatics!
The Chongqing má là (Chinese: 麻辣 – “numb and spicy”) hot pot, is one to which a rather enormous amount of numbing Sichuan pepper (Chinese: 花椒 huā jiāo “flower pepper”; also known as “prickly ash”) has been added.
A Chongqing hotpot is markedly different from the types eaten in other parts of China. Quite often the differences lie in the meats used, the type of soup base, and the sauces and condiments used to flavor the meat. Má là huǒ guō could be used to distinguish from simply huǒ guō in cases when people refer to the “Northern Style Hot Pot” in China.
Hotpot as a recipe-type was created during the Shang (16th century-11th century BC) and Zhou (11th century-256 BC) dynasties. Chongqing hotpot appeared later, approximately in the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Sichuan writer Li Jieren claims Sichuan hot pot originated in Chongqing.
TFD’s unique take on this recipe is to seek ingredient inspiration from another Chinese province – in this case, Fujian. TFD is very fond of Fujian glutinous rice wine (福建糯米酒), which is made by adding a long list of expensive Chinese medicinal herbs to glutinous rice and a low alcohol distilled rice wine.
The unique brewing technique uses another wine as raw material, instead of starting with water. The wine has an orange-red color and has an alcohol content by volume of 18%. This adds yet another layer of medicinal herbs and flavor to the soup, and while optional is highly recommended! 😀
Yes, I know there are tons of ingredients in this recipe, plus various condiments. Don’t panic – once you make the soupbase, this is actually pretty easy since the ingredients are raw and cooked by each guest! 😉 TFD would never pander to his Citizens, you seek only the finest recipes as they are PROPERLY made, and that is exactly what your beloved TFD provides to you! Shortcuts and compromise do not exist in my (or our!) vocabulary!
Also, I have conveniently given you the Chinese characters for most of the more unusual ingredients – just print out the recipe, show the list to your local Chinese grocer and/or herbalist store and they will hook you up! 🙂 Lastly, you do not by any means need to make or use all of these ingredients or condiments.
A final word of caution: since the food is cooked in boiling broth, you should **never** eat the cooked ingredient right out of the pot. To avoid a nasty mouth burn, you should always let the food sit in your bowl until the temperature has lowered.
Battle on – The Generalissimo
To soak the spices:
½ cup (20 grams) Chinese small dried chilis, whole
4 (3 grams) star anise/八角
1 large (3 gram) black cardamon/草果
1 whole (3 grams) nutmeg/白蔻
9 whole cloves/丁香
½ stick (5 grams) cinnamon/桂皮
8 (5 grams) dried bay leaves/香葉
1 tbsp (5 grams) fennel seeds/茴香
1 tbsp (8 grams) cumin seeds/小茴香/孜然
6 Green Cardamom pods/绿色小豆蔻
1 ½ tbsp (5 grams) white peppercorns/白胡椒
5 grams zi-cao/紫草, if available
3 grams liang-jiang/良姜, if available
2 grams mu-xiang/木香, if available
1 cup (240 ml) boiling water
2 ½ cups peanut or corn oil
1 ½ cups lard (preferred), chicken or duck fat
½ cup + 3 tbsp (200 grams) Sichuan doubanjang/broad bean chili paste – 辣豆瓣酱
¼ cup fermented black beans – 黑豆豆豉
¼ cup (115 grams/ml) Shaoxing Chinese rice wine – 绍兴黄酒
½ cup Fujian glutinous rice wine – 福建糯米酒 (optional but strongly recommended – if unavailable, use regular Shaoxing rice wine)
12 cloves garlic, smashed
1 ½ tablespoons crushed Chinese golden rock sugar – 冰糖
6 large slices (25 grams) ginger
1 stalk (20 grams) lemongrass, cut into chunks
1 cup (90 grams) Sichuan chili flakes, or Korean chili flakes – 辣椒片
½ cup (35 grams) ground red Sichuan peppercorn – 花椒
1 ¾ tsp curry powder
5 cups (1200ml) unsalted, homemade Chicken stock
To add before serving:
3 large scallions, cut into segments
20 Chinese small dried chilis, whole – Chiles de Arbol work well here as a replacement if the Chinese version is unavailable
2 tbsp red Sichuan peppercorn, whole
2 tbsp Goji Berries – 枸杞子
5 Chinese Red Dates (Jujubes)(halved) – 红枣
2 tbsp granulated chicken bouillon
Salt to taste
For Dipping, Any Combination Of These:
Thinly sliced beef short rib, 6 to 8 ounces per person
Thinly sliced pork belly, 6 to 8 ounces per person
Thinly sliced chicken breast, 6 to 8 ounces per person
Thinly sliced lamb, 6 to 8 ounces per person
Shrimp, 6 to 8 ounces per person
Squid (small as you can find), 6 to 8 ounces per person
Chinese Sausage, 6 to 8 ounces per person
Pork balls, fish balls, shrimp balls (can be purchased), 6 to 8 ounces per person
Fried firm tofu squares, 6 to 8 ounces per person
Watercress, 4 to 6 ounces per person
Pea Shoots, 4 to 6 ounces per person
Whole mushrooms, several Asian varietals, 4 to 6 ounces per person
Napa cabbage, 4 to 6 ounces per person
Chinese broccoli, 4 to 6 ounces per person
Bean sprouts, 4 to 6 ounces per person
Spinach, 4 to 6 ounces per person
Bok Choy, 4 to 6 ounces per person
Tofu and tofu skin, 4 to 6 ounces per person
Egg noodles thin and thick, 4 to 6 ounces per person
Rice vermicelli, 4 to 6 ounces per person
Rice cake, 4 to 6 ounces per person
Sweet potatoes, 4 to 6 ounces per person
Condiments For Dipping – Any Combination Of These:
Vinegar (white or black)
Coriander / Cilantro (or xiāng cài)
Sa cha sauce
Chive flower paste (韭菜花酱)
Pickled tofu (腐乳)
Satay or Peanut butter sauce, made by mixing peanut butter with water to a thick consistency (or hua sheng ru fu)
Must make this the day ahead.
With a scissor, cut everything under the “to soak the spices” list into small chunks (leave the dried chilis whole). Pour 1 cup of boiling water over and let sit for 30 min ~ 1 hour. Strain and reserve the liquid.
In a large deep pot, combine 4 cups total of peanut oil and fat, broad bean chili paste, fermented black beans, Chinese rice wine, optional glutinous rice wine, the smashed garlic, sliced ginger and lemongrass.
Set over high heat while stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a gentle simmer, then lower the heat down to medium~medium-low to keep it bubbling, and continue to stir and cook for about 10~15 min until all the moisture/liquid has evaporated.
Add the sichuan chili flakes (or Korean chili flakes), all the soaked spices and ½ of the soaking liquid. Bring the mixture back to a gentle simmer, then continue to stir/cook for another 15~20 min until all the added moisture/liquid has also evaporated.
Now add the ground red sichuan peppercorn and curry powder, then stir and cook for another 1 min. Turn off the heat and add the 5 cups of stock. Mix evenly then let sit overnight.
To serve, strain the mixture (press on it to extract as much liquid as you can) and discard all the solids.
You should now have a hot pot-base with about 50% red/chili oil, and 50% stock. You can now skim off some of the “red/chili oil”, and add more stock into the pot, to adjust the heat level as you desire (the more oil in the pot, the hotter it is).
Try 4 parts red/chili oil : 6 parts stock/liquid as a starting point. Keep the extra red/chili oil on the side so you can add it back later if needed.
Now add 3 large scallions, whole dried chilis and whole red sichuan peppercorns to the base. Season with 2 tbsp granulated chicken bouillon and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, and serve. (As the hot pot cooks, liquid will evaporate, so keep adding more stock or water and re-season as needed).
Dip ingredients in boiling stock mixture until cooked through. Dip in whatever condiment you feel like at that moment, or just enjoy it on its own (after it has cooled off, of course!)
Enjoy broth at the beginning and the end of the meal to sample the change in flavor!