Thursday, July 21, 2011

Just a little: Red Chilli Hot Pot Restaurant

Winter is synonymous with hot pot, otherwise known as steamboat, for me. The weather is cold – why not have a boiling pot of stock in front of you? Popular in Asian cultures from Chinese steamboat, Japanese shabu shabu or even Korean jigae stews, this was to be my first experience of Sichuan styled hot pot.

Hot pot with half chicken and pork bone broth and half spicy broth at
Red Chilli Hot Pot Restaurant, Glebe Point Road, Glebe
One of two Sichuan restaurants on the main strip in Glebe, Red Chilli Hot Pot Restaurant is styled in over-the-top ‘oriental’ fashion with carved wood panels, lashings of red and gold, lacquer folding screens, and glass-topped tables around every nook and cranny with a hole and burner built into the centre.

The air in the restaurant is warm with steam and seemingly chilli too, as my ticklish nose would attest to. A menu displays images of non-hot pot items while the hot pot ordering sheet looks more like a spreadsheet than a menu.

Tsing Tao beers
We order up on the only Chinese beer on the menu, and set to work on the spreadsheet. First is the stock selection, and we choose the split spicy and not-spicy broth option.

On the spicy options, there are four chilli levels to choose from (one in the know guided us towards the lowest level, ‘little’) and also four numbing levels. Having never experienced the infamous numbing characteristics of Sicuan cuisine, we ramped this up to a medium level. I could already see that this was going to be fun.

Sliced lamb for the hot pot
After picking some basic hot pot items – sliced beef and lamb, fish balls, fish tofu, enoki mushrooms, Chinese cabbage, dumplings, noodles – we sent the order sheet around the table of ten and watched the order build. Dipping sauces were also ordered: the house special proving popular, as well as raw egg, fresh coriander, and ginger and shallot.

It wasn’t long before two halved steaming pots of stock arrived, one half creamy white and the other scarily red with dried chillies and Sichuan peppercorns floating about. As they hit the boil, dishes of raw food - which were conveniently stored nearby on little tiered wooden stands - got the dunk.

Frozen dumplings and cuttlefish balls (bottom)
The creamy yolk centres of the tiny quail’s eggs made them a hit with everyone, while I was actively fishing for my favourite fish tofu cubes. The house special sauce had fresh chillies in it, and so added a big kick to the already spicy items coming from the red side of the hot pot.

Fish roe-filled fish balls – frozen
The must-try hot pot item was the pointy-topped fish balls that were filled with fish roe. Not so special in their frozen state, when cooked and steaming hot, a careful bite would reveal creamy orange fish eggs; not too different from a chicken egg with its bright yolk centre.

Fish roe-filled fish balls – cooked centre

Warning: possibly disturbing images below.

Some crazy eaters, luckily down the other end of the table and unable to contaminate my hot pot, had ordered ‘pork brain’ as well as pig’s blood jelly.

Both were gruesome in their raw states and not much better cooked, according to one sampler (the brain apparently was very mushy after cooking from its frozen state).

Pork brain - frozen and uncooked

Pork brain - cooked

Steamed sweet corn bread
One of the more unusual non-hot pot menu items were the nubs of steamed corn bread. Their grainy texture reminded me of polenta, and served sweet and warm, these hollow yellow domes were an interesting contrast to the heat and boiled food from the hot pot.

Sweet potato noodles – uncooked
In the end, as the last standing tried to scoop up the last strands of sweet potato noodles, most of us were defeated and clutching stomachs, water glasses, aloe vera drink, tissues or more Tsing Tao beers.

The pain was not nearly so bad as I’d expected (though I’m glad we didn’t go for ‘mild’ chilli) and we were still ably standing to go for drinks, darts and a few games of table tennis at new, nearby Bar 99 to finish the night off – just for a little.

Table tennis table upstairs at Bar 99, 99 Glebe Point Road, Glebe

Red Chilli Hot Pot Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Bar 99 on Urbanspoon


Minh said...

Love those Fish Roe Fishballs, easily my favourite part of Hot Pot! I'm usually keen on trying most things but those brains do not look appetising at all lol

MissPiggy said...

I went here last year with my family for a birthday dinner...we had no idea what we were doing & piled everything in all at once = fail! I want to go back though and try again...I thougth the creamy broth was boring tho so it's the chilli broth for us...with quail eggs (no pork brain tho...eep)!

gastronomous anonymous said...

oh i love hot pot and the fish roe fishballs are my favourite! definitely keen to try this place...

Anonymous said...

I've eaten cow's brain but in pieces... I think I'd be disturbed by seeing a whole brain on the table. The sliced lamb looks like bacon, LOL.

joey@FoodiePop said...

Hmmm, not sure about the porcine brain there .... I keep thinking of Porky Pig.

Dumpling Girl said...

Oh I went to a place that looks to similar in Chinatown years ago. Lol we got sheep's brains back then and they had the same experience with the brains as you guys did.

I think I may try this place out, the chilli is so enticing in this kind of weather.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

We've always wondered what this restaurant was like as we drive past it quite a bit. It looks just right for winter.

Anonymous said...

tsingtao and hot pot, the best combination! :D

Tina said...

Hi Minh - They don't look good cooked or frozen :(

Hi MissPiggy - I thought the plain broth was good for temporary relief, away from the chilli every now and then.

Hi gastronomous anonymous - My first time with the fish roe balls, but already one of my faves!

Hi lateraleating - Wow, didn't know we could get cow's brain... but :S

Hi joey - That's all folks?

Hi Dumpling Girl - Chilli and boiling pots of steaming liquid = all you could need :)

Hi Lorraine - It's absolutely perfect for winter; lots of food, company and heat!

Hi minibites - Too true ;) The prune juice was popular too...

chopinandmysaucepan said...

I love having beer with the cooked beef and their chilli dipping sauce. The hotpot looks so right for this wet and cold weather!

Forager @ The Gourmet Forager said...

I am addicted to those fish balls with roe - they are like addictive savoury drug dumplings. And - you can buy them from most Asian supermarkets now - I always have them in the freezer.

Tina said...

Hi chopinandmysaucepan - Just the weather for some steamboating and beers; agreed.

Hi Forager - Oooh, great idea :) Thanks

Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said...

Perfect for the kind of nights we've been having here in Sydney. I love yout first shot of the hot pot (though I call this steam boat too, sounds better to me =). I just realised it's in the shape of the ying yang symbol - I suppose the half chilli half non chilli broth comes together to create some sort of balance? hehe =D

Jasmin said...

We were here on Wednesday and go back at least every three or four weeks.

I love Hot Pot and like to make wild stabs at the ingredients listed in Chinese and get a bit disappointed when it turns out to be celery.

My favourites are the dumplings and potatoes. But we always go for the medium, with little numb.

I can't stand the numb.

Tina said...

Hi Angie - I'd love to be in front of a hot pot right now... Brrr...

Hi Jasmin - Ooh, so a fave haunt? That sounds like a real fun way of ordering - be careful though, you might get the pork brains :P


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