Chongqing: Hot & Cold

 My favourite restaurant to eat traditional hotpot, with its quaint retro interior that glamourises the kitsch and optimism of the Communist takeover days and country living: think brick walls, enamelware tin cups spray painted with garish neon flowers, stone morter and pestle to grind garlic, wooden everything, and rough brown paper lots-of-things.  Zao Lao Yi Ji  restaurant

My favourite restaurant to eat traditional hotpot, with its quaint retro interior that glamourises the kitsch and optimism of the Communist takeover days and country living: think brick walls, enamelware tin cups spray painted with garish neon flowers, stone morter and pestle to grind garlic, wooden everything, and rough brown paper lots-of-things. Zao Lao Yi Ji restaurant

Guru Videos took me to Chongqing and Chengdu, the two famous Sichuanese cities famed for their fiery cuisine. I got to live out my Anthony Bourdain, No Reservations travel show fantasies and finally go to Chongqing to show off my chilli-eating abilities.

Long story short: I was defeated two-fold by the relentless and never-ending barrage of very oily chili broth, then by the chill of the weather. Chongqing really confused me. I have no clue how the locals 1. Eat almost nothing but skewered raw food dunked into a vat of red-hot wrath, all day every day; and 2. Eat outdoors and/or in restaurants that keep their doors wide open, and are okay with that and with eating in puffy-coated hinderance. For two days I, a self-professed winter baby, was in a constant state of shivering in my bones and in my mouth. Not so tough anymore.

Here are some photos while I wrap my mind around how weird I feel about not liking a place I've traveled to and not liking spicy food. I guess we'll all wait for the video to come out to get a fresh perspective from the footage, especially of the parts in town where I was genuinely surprised to see a vibrant youth culture and fierce fashion, even more so than in Beijing and Shanghai!

 Street BBQ, my preferred way to enjoy all kinds of pickled, fresh and dried chilies over smoky, char-grilled fish and vegetables. The grilled aubergine was my favourite.

Street BBQ, my preferred way to enjoy all kinds of pickled, fresh and dried chilies over smoky, char-grilled fish and vegetables. The grilled aubergine was my favourite.

 Old walls of demolished housing in the rough-and-tumble, hilly and crumbly laneway of old Chongqing.

Old walls of demolished housing in the rough-and-tumble, hilly and crumbly laneway of old Chongqing.

 Pounding sesame caramel candy the old-fashioned way in Ciqikou alley (TSIH-CHEE-ko), street food and entertainment promenade that recreates a cheerful, bustling street food alley from "the old days".

Pounding sesame caramel candy the old-fashioned way in Ciqikou alley (TSIH-CHEE-ko), street food and entertainment promenade that recreates a cheerful, bustling street food alley from "the old days".

 Huddling up to a neighborhood mini-bonfire; locals sit around, chat, and stay warm.

Huddling up to a neighborhood mini-bonfire; locals sit around, chat, and stay warm.

 Fruit wines at a beloved old place open since the early eighties, with delicious hot sharing dishes to snack on; the Chinese equivalent of a good ol' wine bar. Our boisterous neighbours brought their own pack of cards to play games through the cold, damp night (this place has no wall to separate the little shop from the outdoors); I just kept on working my way through the wines from black rice (chocolatey) to pipa fruit (a traditional sore throat soother).

Fruit wines at a beloved old place open since the early eighties, with delicious hot sharing dishes to snack on; the Chinese equivalent of a good ol' wine bar. Our boisterous neighbours brought their own pack of cards to play games through the cold, damp night (this place has no wall to separate the little shop from the outdoors); I just kept on working my way through the wines from black rice (chocolatey) to pipa fruit (a traditional sore throat soother).