Sichuan hotpot is increasingly famous all around the world for its distinctive fiery flavor. Sichuan hotpot is rich, delicious, exciting and fun, but a novice needs a bit of guidance for the gastronomic exploration in his first try.
Which "pot" to choose
Pick the spicy red pot (红锅, Hong-Guo), the half spicy & half clear broth (鸳鸯锅, Yuan-Yang-Guo) or the clear broth (白锅, Bai-Guo or Bai-Wei). The half spicy & half clear broth is recommended for people who have a first taste of Sichuan hotpot.
What "oil" to choose
Here the "oil" refers to the oil used in the soup — which is important to quickly cook the foods — and primarily there are two kinds of oil, namely the vegetable oil (清油, Qing-You, clear oil) and the "beef oil" (牛油, Niu-You). Generally speaking, foods cooked in the soup based on vegetable oil taste not as strong as that cooked in the thickened soup based on beef oil.
What level of spiciness to choose
Make sure you have the right choice and tell the waiter exactly what level you want when you order the spicy red pot.
There are three levels of spiciness:
super spicy (特辣, Te-La, or extra spicy)
mild spicy (中辣, Zhong-La, or normally spicy)
light spicy (微辣, Wei-La).
What saucer to choose
You can ask for a saucer (or a small bowl) of sesame oil mixed with coriander and garlic (油碟, You-Dyee), to help you subdue the ferocity of the spiciness, or a saucer of ground chili mixed with crushed peanuts and soybeans (干碟, Gan-Dyee) to enhance the spiciness when eating the foods.
Pork slices (老肉片), fatty beef slices (肥牛), lamb slices (肥羊), fried pork (酥肉), cow stomach (毛肚), duck intestines (鸭肠), pig aorta (黄喉), chicken gizzards (鸡胗), eel (鳝鱼), tofu skin (豆皮), mushrooms (香菇), bamboo shoots (笋片), lotus root slices (藕片), potatoes (土豆片)
What to drink
Chilled beer (we recommend local beers, good and much cheaper than the imported brands)
soybean milk or peanut milk
herbal tea like Wanglaoji (王老吉) or Jiaduobao (加多宝)
sour plum soup (酸梅汤)
Some prefer fresh fruit juices, but ask about the prices before you order, since they are usually more expensive
Two ways for online group buying: buy a discount ticket, or book a meal pre-arranged by the restaurants. The most popular online group buying websites in China are Dazhongdianping (大众点评), Meituan (美团) and Baidunuomi (百度糯米)
If you don't know what to do, just keep an eye on your neighbors and watch what and how they are doing. If you think the food is too spicy, just ask the waiter to bring you a bowl of hot water for you to dip the food before you put it into you mouth.