Last week I met a few Chowhounds for a night of Hot Pot at Sichuan Cuisine, a mad-authentic hole in the wall in the heart of Houston’s Chinatown.
At a basic level, hot pot is Chinese fondue: you order a hot pot of broth, which is kept simmering on your table, plus various meats and vegetables to cook inside. I was admittedly torn on the debate between “this is awesome” and “I’m at a restaurant, but doing all the work myself,” but vowed to have a good time regardless.
Our group, which featured novices and experts alike, ordered a pot split between spicy and mild broths. My biggest rookie mistake (and there were many) was thinking I could handle the chili-laden soup. But even just a half-spoon of the intensely hot substance lit my insides with a Joan-of-Arc-like fire. Holy crap! My eyes teared up, my face reddened, and I quietly prayed for peace in the Middle East. Pride be damned, I’ll switch to the mild, thankyouverymuch.
Onward. We went all out -- lamb, shrimp, beef, crab, fish, chicken, squid, tofu, spinach, noodles, wontons, mushrooms, and more. The nearly unanimous table favorite was? The lamb. Mmmmm! But I’ll throw in votes for the tofu, wontons, and mushrooms, too.
While hot pot is much cheaper than traditional fondue, I have to conclude that food is just better when someone else makes it for you. But who cares. In the end, hot pot is a group of friends, sitting around a steaming broth, talking, laughing, joking, and sweating, not caring about the weather, the economy, or everyday stress. zhù nǐ hǎoyùn!
Sichuan Cuisine -- 9114 Bellaire Boulevard