Shu Jiu Xiang was both the quintessential Sichuan hotpot experience and probably the best hotpot I’ve had in years. I have a vague sense that I’d come here during my first trip to Chengdu in 2008, although I do not have any photos or Facebook check-ins to verify this. Only that the decor was oddly familiar. Okay, moving on from this bizarre episode of déjà vu.
We sat down around 10pm, after a relaxing massage session at a nearby Congen Massage, and proceeded to order a host of things to douse in boiling chili oil. We only requested medium spicy, which in retrospect was overly cautious, but when the medium spicy arrived, we were still nervous:
Is this not cause for skepticism?The go-to Sichuan hotpot dipping sauce is a simple bowl of sesame oil, minced garlic, and salt.The house special is this marinated beef (don’t ask me what cut) in a neon chili sauce, which I’m not so sure about the value add since cooking the beef in the spicy broth kind of does the same trick, but it is visually catchy.The below three were my favorites: marinated pork spare ribs, meatballs with cilantro, and shrimp dumplings. Each of them had some weight, as well as complex inherent flavor that the chili oil and the heat of the boiling hotpot enhanced. The freshly-made meatballs and the shrimp dumplings were both fatty and sweet. The ribs were generously meaty, a nice touch in a hotpot world full of shoddy cuts and skimpy portions. The rest of the ingredients we got were fairly standard fare, nothing remarkable but good quality nonetheless. In particular, I liked the frozen rice cakes, which are phenomenal as absorptive vehicles of both spice and flavor while having enough texture and heft to stand on their own.And I could eat tofu ribbon all day, so, there’s that.Hey, look! We found a whole fish, just chillin’ in the non-spicy middle part of the hotpot.And of course, the aftermath:
Shu Jiu Xiang Hotpot / 蜀九香火锅酒楼
53 Nanfu Street, 2nd Section of Renmin South Road / 人民南路二段南府街53号(近盐道街)