One of the best things about winter is being able to savour hot pots (steamboats) without breaking into an unbearable hot sticky sweat.
I’ve recently found myself become a regular at SiChuan Hot Pot because the DIY (do-it-yourself) fun is both scalable and addictive.
As soon as we are seated, we’re handed an ordering form on a clipboard. There’s often the ‘lost in translation’ danger when ordering from waitstaff who don’t speak English but this form seems to have solved our worries.
The brilliant thing about hot pot restaurants is being able to order as many or as less dishes as you need – whether you have a large appetite or a large table to feed, this communal dining experience will fit the bill! Pricing for the broth starts at $8 for a small chicken soup and up to $15 for the large half spicy and half chicken soup. The spiciness of the SiChuan pepper soup varies from extra hot to ultra mild… We naturally opt for the extra hot.
Each table is fitted with an embedded stove top and our broth is brought out bubbling. We’ve decided to go for the half-half, preempting that we’ll need the chicken soup to counter the spicy one. The chicken broth is flavoursome and peppery. There are bean spouts, shallots, shitake mushrooms, jujube (red dates), goji berries (wolfberries), ginger and sliced tomatoes.
Right beside it is our extra hot spicy broth. It is threatening in appearance – a dark red and dense blend, with chunks of garlic, ginger, aniseed, red chillis and huajiao (Szechuan peppers). With the first taste, I depict a slight lemony overtone but it is the tingly numbing after-effect which I have grown to love.
There are about 77 ingredients available for order, with items varying from pork brains to barramundi to quail eggs to spinach!
We have the coriander and pork meatballs ($7) which turn out to be really tasty. The taro ($4) is disappointingly the frozen ball variety and not the fresh type you would expect but the bamboo shoots ($5) have a firm texture and is deliciously balanced with our softer vegetables – the enoki mushrooms ($7) and Chinese cabbage ($3). We also have crisp lotus roots ($4), beef ($8) which are frozen and thinly sliced and what i deem as mandatory for any hot pot course – cuttlefish balls ($8), rice noodles ($4) and prawns ($8).
These were all prepared on individual plates, stacked on top of each other and wheeled out in one go on a trolley.
As our broths bubbled into the night, the chaos in the restaurant settles.
Hot pots can be a loud and messy dining experience (especially with first-timers who splatter) but with practice comes perfection; and SiChuan Hot Pot provides an affordable and fun place to do it at.
SiChuan Hot Pot
248 Burwood Road, Burwood, NSW
Phone: (02) 9745 2009
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