Monday, June 11, 2012

Chong Qing Hotpot

Normally, I am not a fan of hotpot. Let me just put this out there. 

I have tried it over the years in different forms but mostly it has been an experience I never wish to recall again, from the combination hotpots ordered at Cantonese restaurants to steamboat styles lacking flavour. It is the latter style, the steamboat style of hotpot, that Teacakes has suggested we try this rainy Sunday evening and I am visibly nervous. 

For one thing, hotpot can be very hardcore in its medley of strong Asian flavours. I, on the other hand, tend to prefer my meat to taste like meat, my seafood to taste like seafood and my tofu to taste like tofu. The amalgamation of these flavours into a slurry of liquid has held little appeal for me. Secondly while cooking things yourself at the table can be a fun experience, one wonders whether a chef is not better trusted to prepare the meal. 

Despite these misgivings, I find myself with a group of friends at Chong Qing Hotpot in Hurstville on the recommendation of Teacakes' friend. The restaurant itself is slightly hard to find as we keep an eye out for 330 Forest Rd but find the numbers skip from the 320's to 333. Suddenly around the corner, opposite the bus interchange, I spot a tiny sign "Golden Pots Chong Qing Hotpots" and enter the sliding doors. 

By no means is this a fancy restaurant, nor is it extremely busy on this cold rainy night. Those diners that are present however are bunched around tables with giant burners in the middle ready for soupy delights. We too are seated around such a table and are presented with a sheet in Mandarin and a laminated English translation. We stare down in amazement at the list of ingredients containing everything from chicken to tripe and turn to Teacakes, hoping her friend has given her some sort of guidance as to what to order. Luckily she has and we set off ticking boxes with the expected "pork" and "lamb" along with some slightly perplexing "fish roe buns" and "fish tofu". Our waitress happily answers our unrelenting questions through the process and at one point even brings out a plate containing a "beancurd cake" so I could see what it looks like.

My nervousness about the combination of meat, seafood and tofu is now in full flight but I am determined to keep an open mind. For those unfamiliar with this style of hotpot, it is basically a steamboat where you get a pot of simmering broth and raw ingredients which you place into the pot to cook before eating. The Chongqing version is heavy on the spice and makes good use of Sichuan pepper - perhaps not surprising since the Chongqing region of China borders upon the Sichuan province. It is a hearty peasant-style dish great for a cold rainy night such as this. We've chosen a half 'n' half hotpot containing both mild and extreme versions of spicy broth to satisfy McVitties' unrelenting desire for spice. The pot arrives and looks great with the white mild broth providing the yin to the yang of the fiery crimson spicy broth.

The half extreme, half mild, hotpot.

Our waitress turns the burner on and brings us our raw ingredients and side sauces. Peanut sauce, soy and chilli oil are all present with freshly chopped shallots. Teacakes has also ordered some raw eggs and upon consultation with our waitress we discover these are to be cracked open into the steaming broth. One of our companions, clearly missing these instructions, started to throw the eggs in their whole state right into the pot. They were quickly rescued before turning into hardboiled versions of their former selves and cracked and stirred in to thicken the broth.


As for the rest of the ingredients., I'm sure there is some time-honoured tradition as to what order to put these in to maximise efficiency and flavour but our method was slightly more haphazard. At first we hesitantly started placing the meats into the pot then grew bolder and started throwing in the the remainder of ingredients. In went enoki mushrooms, cabbage, beancurd skin, meat, dumplings...

 I was scared. 

From top left clockwise: Lamb, dumplings, pork, beancurd skin, fish tofu, fish roe buns

However it was brilliant! The spicy broth was challenging for me personally but enjoyed by Mc Vitties. I preferred to mix it up alternating between spicy and mild. A hint on the order of the ingredients - the meat actually cooks fairly quickly - the tofu and dumplings take longer. A clear standout were fish-roe dumplings - tiny buns exploding with orange pearls of fish roe. Warning: if you are not a fan of seafood this is NOT for you! "Fish tofu" was another inclusion that sounded "interesting" but as McVitties' b/f said "now this is a type of tofu I can eat".. why? it pretty much tastes just like fishcakes!

A must-try here is the side of shallot pancakes. These are simply ingenious. Most places serve shallot pancakes as a shallot filling inside a dense fried dough pastry. These however were light and crispy yet soft and the shallots were mixed into the batter giving the pancakes a distinctive green tinge. If anyone has ever eaten an Indian "battura" then think about that with goodness of shallots! Though they unfortunately arrived towards the end of our meal just as we were getting quite full, they were nonetheless finished in entirety and well worth it!

Slice of the shallot pancakes!
I found myself craving more hotpot this week and was amazed at the transformation! By no means will everyone like this sort of food... it really does depend upon personal taste and your own inclination towards Asian cuisine. However it truly is an experience and one which you can cater to your personal tastes depending on what ingredients you order.

So go... try out this little local joint :) The hotpot is pretty decent!

Chong Qing Hot Pot Restaurant 
330 Forest Rd
Hurstville NSW
(02) 9585 0598

When we checked hotpot was only available in 
the evenings so do call and check before you go.

Overall Impression: Ambience is average but hotpot is decent!
Value: $$ You are looking at about $20 pp. on average depending on what ingredients you order.
Vegetarian Options: While there are plenty of vegetarian ingredients on hand including at least 5 different types of beancurd I believe the stock is meat based so this may be a problem. Furthermore if sharing with non-vegetarians you may not enjoy the combining of ingredients in one pot, although a half 'n' half pot is possible. Probably not a place I'd recommend for vegetarians.

Chong Qing Hot Pot restaurant on Urbanspoon

Know any other good hotpot places in Sydney? Have any further information about hotpots? Leave a comment - we would love to be better educated about it :)


  1. i love reading your blog.. just saying xx

    1. We love you reading it... just saying :)


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