Hot Hot Hotpot in Chengdu
It's great to try out the local foods and today, with thanks to a lovely couple we met, we tried the culinary delight of Sichuan - Hotpot - hot being the operative word!
We were on the road again, or should I say track; from Xi’an to Chengdu. As we were queuing for the bullet train, we chatted to a lovely couple, Diana and Per from Denmark. It turned out that they were sitting behind us, so we talked some more.
Similar to us, they have sold their house and now live on a yacht when they are not travelling. It’s moored just south of Barcelona now. They are in China for three weeks, having visited Beijing and Xi’an and we worked out that we were at the Terracotta Army at the same time as we both saw a young boy squat down on the grass to relieve himself!
We felt very comfortable with Diana and Per; they seemed like kindred spirits. We swapped details and arranged to meet for a meal in the evening.
Meanwhile, we had our accommodation to find. We were going around in circles looking for number 71. When we found it, we felt confident that this barber’s shop wasn’t the boutique hotel we had booked. Eventually, we had about four people surrounding us, discussing where the place was, and one man took charge and walked us down the other end of the street to the door. Ah, this looks right. Tim has now added the place in the correct location on Maps.me for them and future guests. They really need to change their address though to the correct one! Thankfully it is a lovely hotel, fairly new and quite groovy. They are still doing the place up.
In the evening, we caught the metro and quickly found Diana and Per’s hostel. Diana had been recommended a Hotpot restaurant, famous in Chengdu. When we arrived, there was a waiting list, so we were given a ticket and small plastic pink stalls to sit on outside.
A young boy was practising his English with us, saying hello and counting. On his jacket, he had a label which was rather rude (in English) – on a child’s jacket? I am sure that the parents and the boy had no idea what it said, and perhaps the manufactures didn’t either. Oh dear.
Our ticket had A14 on it, and I was chuffed when I heard A –Yī – Sì and knew it was us! We arrived at the table, and the smoke-filled air from fried chilli tickled the back of our throats.
The menu had no pictures, so we hadn’t a clue what to order. Luckily a friendly and helpful waiter arrived and gradually sorted out what food we would have in our Hotpot — beef and pork balls for the meat-eaters, plus prawn rolls and an assortment of vegetables.
Our waiter made each of us a bowl of delicious peanut satay with peanut butter, sesame oil, stacks of chopped raw garlic, spring onions and coriander leaves. A round brass dish with three compartments arrived, each with a different broth; one with mushrooms, one tomato-based and the traditional one packed with numbing Sichuan peppercorns and chilli. We all dipped the tip of our chopsticks in and had a taste – Wow – hot is an understatement! The fire underneath soon got the liquids bubbling, and our waiter instructed the meat-eaters to put the meat in for at least 20 seconds.
Chopsticks at the ready, we got stuck in, dipping our chosen food in one at a time. The waiter must have been watching us as he zoomed over and chucked lots of the food in, including into the boiling chilli liquid we had been avoiding.
I don’t like to waste food, so picked out a lettuce leaf from the fiery broth, and even though I coated it with the satay, it was still “blow off your head” hot. No more of that for me, I don’t want a repeat of the Tom Yum episode on Day 713.
It was delightful chatting with Diana and Per, discussing various countries we have visited and finding out about each other’s family. I shared with them about the community living in Zurich; interestingly, Diana and Per investigated this living in Copenhagen; however, they found that everything had to be discussed and mutually agreed. For me, it sounded that the community had lost the free-spiritedness way of living. I found that the food dipping did interrupt the flow of our conversation a bit. I would have loved to have chatted more. A charming couple to meet and we thoroughly enjoyed our time together. We do hope we keep in touch.