Chengdu’s hot pot: Making women hot-tempered for centuries

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Where do you find China’s most hot-tempered and sassy women?

Most Chinese point to Chengdu, the capital of Sechuan, where many locals say — jokingly, but with a hint of seriousness — that women here are known to be the dominant type. Many locals — both men and women — say much of this spicy temper comes from eating spicy food.

Or at least people are fond of saying that because it makes them laugh, in a city where people tend to value play over work. While people here work hard, as many people in China tend to do, they are less stern and serious than people in places like Beijing or parts of northern China. Even late on a weeknight, bars and restaurants in Chengdu are packed, and rush hour doesn’t start here until around 9am.

Hands down, everyone’s favorite dish here is hot pot, or huo guo,  a spicy stew that contains a unique pepper that introduces a new flavor to the tongue. In the rest of the world, the basic tastes are sweet, bitter, salty, sour and spicy. In Chengdu, add tingly or tingling to the list, as in the pepper gives your tongue a strong tingling sensation.

The dish has been around for centuries, and one story says restaurant owners in Chongching, another city in Sechuan with similar tastes and culture, starting selling hot pot to underpaid dock workers, who wanted something filling and high-protein to keep up their strength throughout the workday, as well as something to keep them warm while they worked outside.

For some, the dish is addictive — if not physically, then psychologically — and many Chengdu women say, with a laugh, that this dish is the source of their hot tempers, and their tendency to dominate husbands, boyfriends and households.

In the video above, we take you back to old China, with a trip to one of the most authentic hot pot places around, on the outskirts of Chengdu. Other than the usual beef, pork and chicken, our hot pot contains pig brain, ducks throat and other Chinese delicacies.

 

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