Sichuan Hot Pot Spicy Paste Recipe (麻辣火鍋)

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I think of hot pot as a ritual of friendship and conviviality. We share food and talk about our lives over a steaming pot of heartwarming food. To have hot pot together means “I like you well enough to dip chopsticks with you in the same pot”. It usually happens in cold weather, like people camped around a fireplace in winter.

Sichuan Hotpot Aged Spicy Paste Recipe 5

Since I’d migrated to Melbourne, I’ve been introduced to Sichuan-style hot pot, which is a superbly fiery, mouth-numbing affair… the most spectacular version of which was when I had Chongqing Hot Pot at Dainty Sichuan in 2010. Since that day, I’ve not come across any hot pot stock that’s more crazily spicy than that.

Sichuan-style hot pot sessions in a home setting often involves the use of premade Sichuan spice packets to create the broth, but my main complaint is how ridiculously salty these store bought spice packets tend to be. So last Saturday when Fatbee organised a hot pot session with his friends, Lorena and Jerri, I decided to make my own Sichuan hot pot stock from scratch.

Sichuan Hotpot Broth Recipe 1

The first step involves making the base stock. There are lots of ways to make stock, but I created mine by simmering chicken bones (or pork / beef bones) with carrot, celery, smashed ginger and onions for a few hours.

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This stock on its own will make an excellent broth for non-spicy hot pots. The ratios and quantities aren’t set in stone, but use at least 4 litres of water (with two chicken carcass frames) to have enough stock for the hot pot session.

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Dried Chillies, Garlic, Ginger, Fermented Black Beans, Star Anise, Cinnamon Sticks, Liquorice Bark, Fennel Seeds, Green Cardamom, Black Cardamom, Sichuan Peppers

Here are the main ingredients required to create the Sichuan hot pot spicy paste. I’m so glad that I have a cabinet full of Chinese herbs in my home, I found that I had all the spices needed to make this paste without having to go out and buy stuff.

You should source good quality (ie. very spicy) dried chillies and Sichuan peppers, ask your Asian grocer. The poorer quality versions contains less spiciness and mouth-numbing factor. This means that you should tweak the quantities of dried chillies and Sichuan peppercorns in this recipe according to the quality of your ingredients AND your own tolerance for spiciness. On this front, please note that I like my Sichuan hot pot stock very spicy, so the amounts of chillies and peppers I use is pretty high.

If you’re curious to learn more about Chinese herbs and spices, feel free to browse my post on Traditional Chinese Herbs, The Basics.

Sichuan Hotpot Aged Spicy Paste Recipe 1Sichuan Hotpot Aged Spicy Paste Recipe 2
Homemade Sichuan Spicy Paste | Sichuan Chilli Bean Paste (辣豆瓣酱 là dòu bàn jiàng)
Chinese Wine | Red Dates, Goji Berries

And here’s the rest of the ingredients needed. The dried chillies are soaked in water till soft, then ground with garlic, ginger, preserved black beans, Sichuan chilli bean paste and Sichuan peppercorns. The rest of the dry ingredients are fried with the spice paste later on, and the mixture is then simmered in Chinese cooking wine till the flavour is absorbed.

The red dates and goji berries are some of the condiments used in the soup, alongside with slices of ginger, spring onion (and more dried chillies and Sichuan peppers if you wish) when you’re having the actual hot pot session.

Sichuan Hotpot Aged Spicy Paste Recipe 3

So here’s the spice paste being fried on the left… cooking wine is next added and the mixture simmered for 30 mins till the flavour is absorbed. To save yourself from spending too much time in the kitchen, this spicy paste can be made in advance then refrigerated.

On the right, you’ve got me adding the spice paste into the chicken broth bit-by-bit. I kept tasting the stock until it reached my desired level of spiciness.

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Toss in the (optional) red dates, goji berries, ginger and spring onions… maybe even more dried chillies and Sichuan peppers if you like… and you’re ready to start!

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And here’s our hot pot spread for four people.

It was such a hefty amount of food… but I loved how this Sichuan hot pot stock had none of that crazy amount of saltiness that you’d get with premade Sichuan spice packets. My dining companions commented that this soup was actually very good with perfect levels of spiciness and mouth-numbing factor, so this homemade spice paste seems to be pretty good!

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Sichuan Hot Pot Spicy Paste Recipe (麻辣火鍋)

Preparation Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 3 hours
Serves 4 people

Base Stock

In a large stock pot, bring to a boil then simmer for a few hours:

4-5 litres of Water
2-3 Chicken Frames (approx. 1kg)
1 Red Onion
1 large Carrot
Thumb sized piece of Ginger (smashed)
2-3 stalks of Celery
3 stalks of Spring Onion

Strain & leave aside.

Sichuan Spicy Paste

Chop or grind coarsely in a food processor:

10-20 Dried Chillies (soaked in water till soft)
1 tbsp Chinese Fermented Black Beans
1 tbsp Sichuan Peppercorn
Half a thumb-sized piece of Ginger
4 cloves of Garlic
3 tbsp Sichuan Spicy Bean Paste (辣豆瓣酱 là dòu bàn jiàng)

Heat oil in wok, then fry over low heat till fragrant, stirring constantly:

Chopped spice paste mixture above

Add and fry for awhile:

3 Star Anise
1 tbsp Sichuan Peppercorn
2 pieces of Cinnamon Stick
4 pieces Liquorice Bark
1 tbsp Fennel Seeds (toasted)
Black Cardamom (toasted)
Green Cardamom (toasted) 

Stir in, then cover and simmer over low heat for 30 mins, stirring occasionally:

200ml Chinese Cooking Wine
1tbsp Sugar

Set aside this Sichuan Spicy Paste. Can be made in advance then refrigerated.

Serving the Hot Pot

In the hot pot, bring the Base Stock to a simmer.
Gradually stir-in the Sichuan Spicy Paste to the desired level of spiciness.

Add in these optional condiments:

1 tbsp Goji Berries
3-4 Red Dates (halved)
Spring Onion (cut into 1 inch lengths)
Sliced Ginger
Extra Sichuan Peppercorn
Extra Dried Red Chillies

You hot pot is ready to be enjoyed.

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Believe it or not… during that hot pot session, we actually finished every last bit of food!! I currently have the delicious leftover stock in my fridge, ready to be enjoyed in the near future.

You may be interested in more comforting home recipes here.