Lewis, a British chef, traveled to Chengdu, Sichuan province, with a singular mission: to learn how to make authentic Chengdu hotpot, a dish known for its four layers of spiciness, from La Jie, the owner of a local hotpot restaurant. Hotpot is a popular Chinese dish that consists of a simmering pot of soup stock at the center of the dining table. Diners then add a variety of meats, vegetables, and other ingredients to the pot to cook and enjoy with a dipping sauce.
For La Jie, the soul of Sichuan hotpot lies in its spiciness. She expertly blends two types of chili peppers to create the perfect soup base. The chili peppers sourced from Muma Mountain in Sichuan province give the broth its bright red color, while Weiyuan pepper and Pixian bean paste lend a fragrant aroma to the broth.
Lewis views authentic Sichuan hotpot as a culinary bridge between Sichuan and the world. He believes that the dish can bring people from different cultures and backgrounds together, and hopes to introduce this unique culinary experience to people around the globe.
The process of making Chengdu hotpot is an intricate and multi-layered affair. La Jie begins by preparing the soup base, which is the foundation of the dish. She combines the chili peppers with other key ingredients such as garlic, ginger, scallions, and soy sauce to create a rich, complex flavor profile.
After the soup base is prepared, La Jie carefully selects high-quality ingredients such as sliced beef, lamb, tofu, and various vegetables to add to the pot. Each ingredient is chosen for its texture, flavor, and ability to hold up well in the simmering broth.
Once the ingredients are added to the pot, the real magic begins. The hotpot is brought to a boil, and diners use chopsticks to add ingredients to the pot as they please. As the ingredients cook, the flavors meld together to create a sumptuous and satisfying meal.
For Lewis, learning the art of making Chengdu hotpot from La Jie was an eye-opening experience. He had been fascinated by Sichuan cuisine for years, and had long dreamed of mastering this iconic dish. Under La Jie’s tutelage, he learned not only the technical aspects of hotpot-making, but also gained a deeper appreciation for the culture and history of Sichuan province.
Sichuan province is known for its bold and flavorful cuisine, which incorporates a variety of unique ingredients and techniques. Many Sichuan dishes, including hotpot, are known for their fiery spiciness, which is a hallmark of the region’s cuisine. However, despite the heat, Sichuan food is also incredibly nuanced and complex, with a depth of flavor that is unmatched.
For La Jie, cooking is more than just a job – it is a passion. She takes great pride in her ability to craft the perfect hotpot, and is always experimenting with new ingredients and techniques to refine her craft. She believes that the key to making a great hotpot is not just in the ingredients themselves, but in the skill and care that goes into preparing them.
As Lewis learned, the process of making Chengdu hotpot is not something that can be rushed. It requires patience, attention to detail, and a deep understanding of the ingredients and techniques involved. However, the end result is well worth the effort. The combination of bold flavors, complex spices, and fresh ingredients make Chengdu hotpot a truly unique and unforgettable culinary experience.
For Lewis, the experience of learning how to make authentic Chengdu hotpot was a transformative one. He gained not only a new set of culinary skills, but also a deeper understanding and appreciation for the culture and people.