Just like their fiery local specialty called hot pot, both Chengdu and Chongqing are locked in a spicy debate over which city's hot pot is the best. Though Chongqing can rightfully claim itself as the birthplace of the dish, Chengdu isn't ready to give up that easily! Blazing competiton for culinary superiority has resulted, creating some unique culinary examples of delicious Sichuan cuisine!
History of the Controversy:
Chongqing is proud of its invention of hot pot, so Chongqing hot pot shops tend to put significant emphasis on tradition. Standard Chongqing hot pot boasts traditional staples - like simple and proud mom-and-pop hot pot shops, "bovine stomach of the boatmen," and "basin hot pot" in upscale restaurants. The authentic old flavor has attracted many over the years.
On the other hand, Chengdu hot pot prefers to come out with innovative ways of eating hot pot and unique combinations of traditional hot pot with other delicious Sichuan dishes. Compared with traditional Chongqing hot pot, Chengdu's essence is that of passionate creativity and fresh new twists.
As the saying goes, Chongqing people are "straightforward, bold, and unconstrained." The result? The "Dezhuang Big Hot Pot" - a 10 meter (32 foot), 31 ton, Guinness World Record-setting hot pot!
On the other hand, Chengdu people are laid-back and humorous, often preferring to "take the high road" and come up with a new hot pot dish in retaliation. Their rebuttal? Dishes with names like "Shameless fish hot pot," "Baldheaded hot pot," and "Pigsty hot pot"!
Hot pot is for eating, so obviously, flavor is very important in the confrontation. Largely, the differences in flavor don't lie in what is put in, but the sauce itself. Chongqing hot pot boast strong flavors, packed full of spicy, hot ingredients to create a dense flavor and "turn the burn up a notch."
The fierce-but-friendly competition between the Chongqing and Chengdu continues and probably will for years to come. Both styles feature unique characteristics and delicious flavors, but the only way you can decide for sure it to try each for yourself! On your next visit to Chengdu, China or Yangtze River Cruise stopover in Chongqing, make sure to treat yourself to these peppery local specialties!