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Updated by Joanna James on Dec 23, 2019
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Guide to Chengdu hotpot – Tips for trying hotpot for the first time

Hotpot is a mandatory part of any trip to Chengdu. The dish is loved by locals, and after the first try, the taste starts to grow on tourists too. So, read on if you are new to the delights of hotpot.


Traditional Chengdu hotpot

If you are wondering what hotpot is, it is a pot with two compartments accompanied by a plate of uncooked vegetables and raw meat: meat and vegetables are chopped into tiny pieces. The diner can cook the pieces of meat and vegetables in the hot broth provided in the pot.


Where to find it

You are likely to find hotpot at every restaurant, someone staying at Ascott Raffles City Chengdu – one of the serviced apartments Chengdu – is surrounded by hotpot serving restaurants. However, the taste and quality can vary, since it is your first time trying it, you don't want to try anything less than perfect.


Spicy and oily

Chengdu food is known for being spicy and oily, and hotpot is no exception. You can expect every ounce of it to be spicy and infused with peppercorn. Tourists who have never tried hotpot before may find the taste a bit challenging, so, a local's advice would be to eat a bowl of rice right after – for it would soak up the intake of oil – and to have some yoghurt before trying hotpot. Trying hotpot can be a bit taxing on your digestive system, but that's part of the bargain.


Different types

There's a range of hotpot types. When you are at a restaurant placing the order for hotpot, you'll be asked what type of broth you prefer. If you are not new to eating spicy food, you can go for the traditional oily and spicy broth, but if you are still getting used to the local palette of food, you might want to play it safe and go for a less spicy one, or better yet, a non-spicy broth.


Half clear and half spicy

This is the most recommended dish for a first-timer. Those who aren't used to eating spicy food can benefit from the clear broth. As you know, the pot comes with two compartments, so, one compartment is filled with clear broth, and the other, spicy.


Spicy broth

The spicy broth defines spiciness: the broth is infused with chillies, peppers and red chilli oil. You are given the option of specifying the level of spiciness you prefer; there are three categories of spicy broth: minimal spicy, medium spicy and maximum spicy.


Non-spicy broth

If you are not very keen on going full-blown spicy, there are three types of non-spicy broth: Mongolian hotpot; made of lamb stock, tomato hotpot; more like tomato soup, mushroom hotpot; made of mushroom stock. These dishes are ideal for someone who'd rather avoid spicy dishes.


Raw ingredients

Now that you've selected the type of broth you want, it is time to select the other components of the dish. The options given to you vary depending on the eatery: usually, the list of ingredients include vegetables, a range of meat, noodles and tofu; you are at liberty to select the vegetables and the meat item of your preference.


Dipping sauce

You will also be asked to select the type of the dipping sauce. You have the blend of sesame oil, garlic, vinegar, oyster sauce, onions and coriander: this sauce is strictly for those who don't mind eating a completely spicy dish, but if that's not you, you can order a milder version of the sauce.


Order rice or bread

If you don't feel like you've had enough after eating hotpot, you can order a dish of rice or bread; you can place the order before or after the delights of hotpot.