"Gourmandism is an act of judgement, by which we prefer things which have a pleasant taste to those which lack this quality." – Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Chongqing Hot Pot 重庆火锅馆

Been searching high and low for a similar taste of 麻辣火锅 (ma-la steamboat) in Singapore ever since returning from Beijing some 4 plus years ago. That was the first time I tasted ma-la in a unhygienic shop in Beijing. It was so difficult getting acquainted to the numb and spicy fusion of taste. However, the second time I tried that, I got to like it. The third time was addiction.

So back to the story, I haven’t found a taste in Singapore that is identical to what I tasted in Beijing. This restaurant here is so far, a decent tasting one. It is real spicy and a little bit (yea, sadly only really a little) of numbness.

The cost of the steamboat buffet is not cheap. It is easily $30 odd for lunch and nearly $50 for dinner. The variety of steamboat items, I won’t say they belong to the high end and luxurious kind. One good thing is they have air-condition. So you don’t really sweat. You can choose  two broths for your steamboat.

They have a specialty – their fish paste. It is cooked as shown in the pictures as “Step 1, 2 and 3”. You pour the soup base over so that the bottom of the fish paste gets a little cooked to get peeled off. Then eventually the whole fish paste drops into the soup.

The restaurant also serves complimentary xiao long bao, pan-fried dumplings and desserts. I like their bun the most! I will dip it into the condensed milk and eat with it. Super super super super yummy!

Stall name: The Magic of Chongqing Hot Pot 重庆火锅馆
Location:
1. 19 Tanglin Road #04-06/07, Tanglin Shopping Centre, Singapore 247909 Tel: 67348135
2. B1-061 Suntec City Mall, 3 Temasek Boulevard, Singapore 038983 Tel: 63373921
Opening hours: Lunch: 12 pm – 3 pm    Dinner: 6 pm – 11 pm
Website: http://www.chinesefeasts.com.sg
Email: hotpot@chinesefeasts.com.sg

Some insights into spicy mala Sichuan hotpot:

“The numbing-spicy hotpot, actually comprises many different layers and suites of flavours.

First there is the fat, which may be vegetable oil, lard, beef fat or a mix. Two bean condiments are essential: Pixian doubanjiang, fermented chilli-broad bean paste from Sichuan’s Pixian county, which has a lilting floral kick; and dark grey-brown douchi, aged fermented soybeans, which have a deep umami savour and are often labelled “lobster sauce” despite not containing lobster.

You can find these at Yue Hwa Chinese Products in Chinatown or at small Chinese supermarts blooking around Geylang.

Fresh spices include ginger, garlic and Chinese leek (xiaocong). The exact blend of dried spices are top secret and proprietary to each mala huoguo restaurant.

Stubby dried Sichuan chillies and Sichuan peppercorns are a given. Other spices may include black and white pepper, star anise, dried tangerine peel, cassia, cloves, fennel seed, brown cardamom, cekur root (called sand ginger or shan nai), chuanxiong (ligusticum), liquorice, and sometimes rather more esoteric ones such as long pepper or swamp loosestrife.

Sweetness and fragrance come from rock sugar, rice wine and glutinous rice wine. The base stock may be made with beef bones, chicken bones, pork bones or ham. It can be tailored to match the main ingredients that will later be cooked in the hotpot.

For the final assembly: first, simmer the dried chillies briefly in oil to extract their aroma, then set this mixture aside.

Next, fry the Pixian doubanjiang in fresh fat for a minute or two over low to medium heat, to bring out its aroma without scorching it. Add the fresh spices and minced douchi and fry them likewise, then stir in the dried spices, stock, sugar and wine. Simmer for a few minutes, then add the chillies-in-oil, and finally simmer everything for several minutes to integrate the flavours.

Alternatively, you can caramelise a little sugar to a golden brown in the oil before adding and frying, in sequence, the fresh spices, the bean condiments and the dried spices, before the stock and the chillies-in-oil go in. This gives a slightly richer colour to the broth.”

Adapted from Lifestyle (The Sunday Times) June 27, 2010, by Chris Tan

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