Casual Restaurant; fabulous spicy food
Whilst in China last year, my friend Jon and I travelled by plane from Inner Mongolia to Chengdu [the capital of Sichuan Province] to meet our friend Peter (who we first met at my favourite Chinese restaurant here in Canberra).
We arrived around 7pm and would have been happy to take a taxi but Peter and his father arrived to pick us up from the airport and take us to our hotel. It was very kind of them as it had taken two hours from their home but let me say it worked out really well as the traffic was horrendous and it took us nearly three hours to reach our hotel – I got to sleep in the back of the car [yay!!].
Peter’s father does not speak English, only the Sichuanese dialect and Peter told us later that his father had asked how he should greet us – he was told to say ‘hi’ as it’s easy to pronounce and that is what he did at the airport and every day with a huge smile – his only English word!
We arrived at our hotel nearing 11pm. Peter wanted us to check in and come straight to his home to meet his mum and have a late supper. I was just so tired from a full day of travelling so declined as I knew we had lunch at the family home the next day.
The next day Peter came to our hotel and we walked to his family home and along the way saw something I thought was very amusing…a take on the US originated KFC…Chinese KFG…ha ha.Peter’s family home is an apartment in a beautiful and very large complex complete with lake and lovely gardens.
We enjoyed an absolutely delicious lunch cooked by Peter’s uncle who is a chef. Peter’s grandmother who also lives in the very large apartment was there for lunch and we enjoyed telling stories of Peter’s life in Canberra. We then sat around with Peter’s parents and relaxed until it was time to go to dinner [oh my gosh more food!!] and in-between Peter’s father poured us some different varieties of Chinese wine to taste [or rocket fuel as I like to call it]. It only took us a short time to reach the restaurant which was quite small with plastic chairs and little wooden tables. Peter’s dad said it was his favourite restaurant and that the cuisine was Chongqing hot pot. (Chongqing used to be under the administration of Sichuan Province but now is separated and is under the direct administration of the central government similar to Beijing and Shanghai). Chongqing hot pot is spicier than Sichuan hot pot – I was a bit scared of my mouth burning!!!I do like my food a little spicy but certainly not lip-tingling hot. Peter’s dad and Jon love spicy food so they both put an additional packet of oily chilli into their dipping sauce. (my blogging friend Gary would love the spicy food I am sure). Now for this dipping sauce – the cooked food is eaten with the sauce which is a combination of spices and herbs and made by the customer from a wide range of ingredients. Peter’s mum made mine and it was absolutely delicious with oil, garlic, tahini, chives, chopped peanuts and chilli.As for the actual hot pot – each table has a two sided simmering pot of soup stock. On our table, one of the pots contained meat stock and chilli and mine of course contained no meat but delicious spices, tomatoes, goji berries and vegetable stock. We were seated at our little table and then the process is you walk up to the kitchen area and select what you want to eat, bring it back to the table and cook! I selected some fresh tofu, noodles, cabbage, mushrooms, thinly sliced potato and sprouts. These were also to be shared by others not just me. Another large fridge had shelves and shelves of meat and seafood which Peter’s dad selected for the table.We returned to the table with our uncooked food and found the waitress had turned on the stove to heat the stock and ensure the hot pot is kept simmering. All ingredients are firstly placed on bamboo skewers and then placed into the pot. In true Chinese tradition both Jon and I were served by our hosts all night. Peter’s mum was so lovely ensuring that no meat was placed into my pot and kept the heat at a simmer rather than a boil to make sure the meat water did not bubble into my pot. Peter translated throughout the meal but Peter’s mum who speaks mainly Sichuanese can also speak some Mandarin so this enabled me to converse with her rather than have Peter translate all of our conversations which I know was very tiring for him.
We had bought a bottle of wine from a shop close-by our hotel as I know that it is very rare for the smaller restaurants in China to have international wines [for anyone who has tasted Great Wall white wine – you will know you won’t ever buy another bottle]. It turned out that this supermarket sold Aussie wine so that is what I bought – warm of course as the wine is usually not kept in the fridge in supermarkets. The boys enjoyed some local beers which were bought from the restaurant.
One thing I did think was particularly cute about this restaurant was the small drawer in the table which contained our paper napkins – lots were needed. Dessert and snacks are also available from the kitchen area but we were all way too full to eat anything else.I must say I genuinely enjoyed this evening and the food was really really good.