Xishui Tofu Skin Hotpot (习水豆腐皮火锅)
This restaurant is an old favorite. The basic broth is garlicky and full of lard, leading to a flavor that caused us to nickname the place “Garlic Butter Hotpot.” Every hotpot comes with an order of tofu skin already in it, and white rice, dipping sauce, and leafy greens on the side. For this each customer is charged 10 RMB , adding ingredients from the menu (and paying the corresponding prices for those to the final bill).
This time we ordered extra tofu skin (豆腐皮), crunchy pork (酥肉), sweet sausage (火腿肠), beef slices (牛肉片)， exploding meatballs (爆浆牛肉丸), lotus root (藕片), zucchini (小瓜片), bread balls (油面筋), and hundred-year eggs (青椒皮蛋). There are a couple things I haven’t described before in that list, so look below for descriptions.
Niúròu piān — 牛肉片 — Beef Slices
Okay, so sliced beef doesn’t really need an introduction, but this is a bit different than you’d expect. The beef is topped with a pile of cornstarch and a small, raw quail egg. Before adding it to the pot, toss it all together with your chopsticks to coat the beef. Don’t forget to hold those chopsticks in the boiling soup for a minute before eating with them again, though.
Qīngjiāo pídàn — 青椒皮蛋 — Hundred-year eggs
This is a side dish, so it doesn’t go into the broth. Hundred-year eggs can be found all over China. In this restaurant they’re served with green pepper and topped with some soy sauce and vinegar. The traditional preparation involves coating whole eggs with salt, clay and other ingredients, and then setting them aside for weeks or months until they are ready. The finished product has a dark yolk, and a jellied, black egg white. The eggs are pungent and strong flavored. Even if they’re not my thing, they’re worth a try. Some friends adore them, and order them every time they see the eggs on a menu.
Note: Menu photos have a slower load time because the file size required to show clear characters is much larger. Please be patient.
Like many hotpot restaurants, the menu here is a checklist. The top section contains house specialty ingredients, followed by a meat section, a veggie section, a list of cold side dishes and, finally, a drink list. When you get a table, tell your server how many people are in your group, and tell them what soup you want (we always, always get the clear, basic broth, 清汤, but you can also order spicy broth).
The lajiao they give each person usually contains zhéěrgēn, the strong-tasting local white root, so if you don’t like it, make sure to tell the server “Zhānshuǐ lǐ búyào zhéěrgēn.” They also add a cube of fermented tofu to the mix. It adds a creamy finish to the dipping sauce when stirred in, and I’d definitely recommend it. Add a scoop or two of broth to complete the dipping sauce.