Soup Base for Mala Hot Pot (Sichuan Hot Pot, Mala Huo Guo, Mala Tang, Chuan Chuan Xiang)
You can absolutely make the soup for Sichuan hot pot from scratch, but most times you will probably do as they do in Sichuan when making hot pot at home and use a readymade soup base. The broth is made from Sichuan pepper and chilies and too many other spices and aromatics to count and is long cooked to create a numbing, spicy and all-around powerful soup. And all you have to do is add water!
(Though you can doctor it up if you wish, using broth instead of water and adding whole dried Sichuan chilies for looks.)
Almost every hot pot chain makes a version of their house hot pot broth for consumers, and this one by Liu Po (Six Grandmas) is from one of the current most popular chains in Chengdu. While it is intense, it is not overwhelming for spice lovers. And if you have a pot with a center divide, the other half of the pot is for a mild mushroom, herbal or bone broth.
This version builds on a base of roasted rapeseed oil (caizi you), so remember that hot pot broth is not for drinking. Dip the food into the pot, using chopsticks or skewers, let it cook, and remove it to your bowl, where a flavorful dip is waiting.
In Sichuan, the dip would be made of roasted sesame oil and garlic, perhaps some cilantro and msg. But no one will mind if you prefer soy sauce, vinegar, sesame paste, oyster sauce, etc. That is up to you! Liu Po hot pot base also comes with a bag of gan die, or a dry dip made of chilies, salt and spices.
This is a large bag of hot pot base. Note that the cooking instructions are in Chinese only, but you simply add 8 cups of water to the base and bring to a boil. If you have a divided "yin-yang" hot pot, you will need only about about 3/4 of the bag for one-half of the pot. Use another broth of your choice in the other half. The remainder of the package can be used as a stir-fry sauce or for dry hot pot (mala xiang guo).
Remember that the second, smaller bag is a dip for the cooked ingredients and should not be added to the soup.
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We recommend a portable butane burner such as this for table-top cooking.Producer: Chengdu Liuhui Xinbang Agriculture and Technology Co.
Size: Soup base: 540 grams (19 ounces); Chili dip: 40 grams (1.4 ounces)
Ingredients: Soup base: Rapeseed oil, chili, monosodium glutamate, Pixian chili bean paste (chili, broad bean, salt, wheat, sodium benzoate), ginger, garlic, Sichuan pepper, salt, yeast extract, rock sugar, spices, angelica, star anise, paprika oleoresin, disodium 5 ribonucleotide, potassium sorbate. Chili dip: chili, sesame, rapeseed oil, salt, MSG, spices, Sichuan pepper, disodium 5 ribonucleotide