Chongqing & Sichuan food

Chongqing Food

Since Chongqing was originally part of Sichuan, most of the cuisine is Sichuan style and which is hot and spicy. Important ingredients in Sichuan cuisine are chilies, Sichuan pepper, garlic, ginger, and fermented soybean.

There are many excellent Sichuan dishes, including duck smoked over a mixture of camphor and tea leaves, then deep-fried, and bean curd scrambled with minced pork and spicy seasonings.

Another of the well-known Chinese dishes from Sichuan is Mapo Tofu, translated as “pockmarked woman’s tofu”. This dish originated in the 19th century, so the story goes, when Mrs. Chen, the pockmarked woman, created a spicy bean curd dish in her family-owned tavern.

Chongqing Hot-pot

Chongqing Hotpot

Hot-pot, one of Chongqing’s trademarks, is well known both at home and abroad. The fresh, fragrant, and spicy hot-pot of Chongqing provides many dining options. Today, despite its humble beginnings, Chongqing Hot-pot can be found all over China.

Love it or loathe it, one can’t visit Chongqing without trying the local hot pot at least once!! What is it about this dish that you might view with disgust and disdain, yet is so revered by locals and even some visitors. How does a dish like Chongqing hot pot rise from such humble beginnings to now be regarded as a gastronomic delight and the ‘signature dish’ of the whole region?

To find out how this happened let’s dive into the history of hot pot. The Chinese have been eating from ‘hot pots’ for more than a 1000 years and they most likely originated in Mongolia. There doesn’t seem to be a definitive history of hot pot in Chongqing until the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) Things began to change in the late 19th century, when live cattle from Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan provinces were transported by river, slaughtered, sold or preserved in the port of Chongqing. The best cuts of meat were shipped out or sold to the upper and middle classes while the internal organs, including stomach and kidney, were discarded or sold cheaply.

Little went to waste around the docks of Nanji Men in those days and the porters, water carriers, sailors, boat trackers, washer women, and the night soil porters were quick to pick up on the discarded offal, adding it to their little clay pots. Known as毛肚火锅Maodu Huoguo, after the tripe it contained, this soon became a popular, low cost dish amongst the poor. A pinch of salt, spice and numbing peppers gave an otherwise bland and mundane meal a lot of zing.

Chongqing Hotpot
Chongqing Hotpot

By the 1930s, when the war brought huge numbers fleeing the Japanese in the north and east of China, many small hotpot joints had popped up away from the docks. These were more elegant and intimate places with higher stools where the Qipao wearing ladies and their gentlemen friends could sit in ease and comfort around small porcelain tables just for four. The clay pots sitting in a hole in the centre of each table were heated from below. Even more recently, in the 1990s, people began to see the advantages of ‘sharing a pot’ with other Families or solo diners. So in went the “jiu gong ge” 九宫格 which effectively cuts a large dish into nine small portions, a separate dish or “ge” for each guest. Eating together in this way offered everyone more variety, time and atmosphere in which to enjoy their meal, and was and still is considered an ideal environment for match making.

Since then, the popularity of hotpot has soared! These days there are 7 distinct kinds of Chongqing Hotpot and in 2001 the ‘Chongqing Hotpot Association’ was founded.

Gan guo & Chuan chuan

Chongqing Ganguo & Chuanchuan

Gan guo (literally: dry pot),different from hot pot which needs a soup.

Just sit back and watch the staff cook your order for you. The ingredients of a dry pot are usually a mixture of vegetables or meat. Dry pots are cheaper and come in three sizes. They are not usually as hot as hotpot.

Chuàn chuàn is similar to hotpot but the ingredients a threaded on wooden skewers an dipped into the pot to cook.

Chongqing Chuanchuan
Chongqing Chuanchuan

Home-Style Chongqing Dishes

He’s a list of what we consider to be 9 of Chongqing’s most famous, popular and foreigner-friendly dishes. All these dishes are traditionally eaten with rice (米饭mǐ fàn) and are best shared between two or more people considering the average portion sizes. Most Chongqing restaurants will serve these dishes, which helps if you cannot read a menu.

Chongqing Hotpot
Chongqing Hotpot

Kung Pao Chicken宫(ɡōnɡ)保(bǎo)鸡(jī)丁(dīnɡ) -Left

- Diced chicken, peanuts, spring onion, dried chili

Fish Flavored Pork 鱼(yú)香(xiānɡ)肉(ròu)丝(sī) -Right

- Stripped pork, spring onion, garlic

Chongqing Chongqing Dishes
Chongqing Chongqing Dishes

Twice-cooked Pork 回(huí)锅(ɡuō)肉(ròu) -Left

- Pork slices, green pepper (not spicy), red onion, black bean, dried chili

Mapo Tofu 麻(má)婆(pó)豆(dòu)腐(fǔ) -Right

- Diced tofu, minced pork, Sichuan pepper

Chongqing Chongqing Dishes
Chongqing Chongqing Dishes

Dry Chili Chicken 辣(là)子(zǐ)鸡(jī) -Left

- Diced chicken (often on the bone), lots of dried chili, Sichuan pepper

Spicy Boiled Beef 水(shuǐ)煮(zhǔ)牛(niú)肉(ròu) -Right

- Lean beef, bean sprouts (in soup)

Chongqing Chongqing Dishes
Chongqing Chongqing Dishes

Sour Vegetables with Fish 酸(suān)菜(cài)鱼(yú) -Left

- River fish (with bones), chili pepper, sour vegetables

Eggs and Tomatoes 番(fān)茄(qié)炒(chǎo)蛋(dàn) -Right

- Scrambled eggs, tomatoes

Xiao Mian

Chongqing Noodle

Xiao Mian, another Chongqing specialty, is a vegetarian noodle. Being cheap and quick to prepare, Xiaomian is popular with the locals. Passion for Xiaomian is similar to that of hot pot. Xiaomian is available in almost every Chinese restaurant. (Small, medium, large bowls). Each restaurant has its own secret recipe. Xiaomian can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s all up to you.


Chongqing Snack
Chongqing Snack

Snacks are indispensable part of local cuisine. Ma Hua is a special snack made by twisting 2 to 3 strips of dough together before frying in boiling oil. Legend has it that long time ago in the region of Da Yin, He Nan Province, lots of scorpions ran wild. The locals, attempting to curse them, stretched wheat dough into strips, twisted them like scorpion tails, fried and ate them. And this was called “biting the scorpion tail”. As time passes, these “scorpion tails” evolved into today’s Mahua. Mahua can be found in street stalls, shops and supermarkets. But the most famous Mahua is the Chen’s Mahua in Ciqikou Ancient Town. Mahua Chen sells a different of flavors from sweet to spicy. bīng fěn & liáng xiā are the perfect summertime snacks. Bingfen and Liangxia are cold snacks and popular with the locals. liáng miàn & liáng pí is another must-eat snack. These two noodles are cheap and quick to prepare and being cold are cold are popular in summer but can be eaten any time of the year. shāo kǎo Barbecue is also popular and cannot go unmentioned. All over town you’ll find barbecues, especially in summer when night barbecues and beer is popular.

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