Located in Sichuan Province, the city of Chongqing is a provincial level municipality – one of only four in the country. Its cuisine – which is highly spiced and strongly flavoured – would best be described as a subcategory of Sichuanese cuisine.
Popular Chongqing dishes include twice-cooked pork, Aunt Ma's tofu, and kung pao chicken. All three can be found on the menus of Chinese restaurants around the globe.
Signature Dish: Chongqing Hot Pot
But the city's signature dish is Hot Pot (pictured above).
Originally a seasonal dish, it was served in winter to protect people against the low temperatures and strong winds that turn the city of Chongqing – blisteringly hot and sickeningly humid much of the year – into a temporary deep freeze.
With the arrival of air conditioning, hot pot can now be enjoyed all year round.
With hot pot, diners sit around a table, which has a pot in the middle. The pot, which sits atop a burner, is filled with broth. There are three basic types: red, which is spicy; bone, which is not; and Mandarin duck, which sometimes called double cooked soup.
Big, Medium, or Small Hot?
The amount of spiciness can be adjusted to suit the preferences of diners. Servers generally ask if you want it “big, medium, or small hot”.
While diners are waiting for the soup come to a boil, they order platters of uncooked fish, meat, bean curd, vegetables, and other delicacies. They then walk over to a buffet-like table, where they create a personalized dipping sauce from the assembled ingredients.
When the soup comes to a boil, they start tossing things into the pot, extracting them when they are cooked and dipping them into their sauce.