Chong Qing Di Yi Jia Lao Huo Guo (Hot Pot)
After having mainland-style hot pot at places like House of Mao's Hot Pot and The Magic of Chongqing Hot Pot, I tended to veer away from these mainland places (preferring instead to save my hot pot adventures for Taipei). But this place on Smith Street intrigued me though as it was run by true mainlanders (they are from the Sichuan province). Even though I knew that meant that it was still going to be quite different from Taipei (especially with that nasty peanut sauce), I was curious.
And indeed, I was impressed. The flavor, although definitely mainland-ish (lots of peppercorn and peppers floating in the broth, etc.), was pretty good. Actually, the trick that made this much better than those other guys was a couple special requests that I had made, and fortunately they were happy to accomodate: sa cha sauce, a raw egg, and sliced beef/lamb, which were not openly available unless you asked for them. In fact, the touter was overly eager to get us inside, and I only agreed when she said she had sa cha sauce in the back. She brought it out, and it was clearly made in the mainland, so it still had less taste than the Taiwan variety, but it was still decent. Mix a raw egg in there, throw some sliced beef in the pot, and I was good to go!
Now, granted, the S$20 entrance fee doesn't exactly get you top-quality ingredients. The beef was clearly very poor quality (far from tender!). But the sa cha sauce and raw egg made up for it. And they had the usual dumplings, cabbage, frozen tofu, tofu skin, etc. All you can drink fake orange-flavored drink from powder too (like Tang- my favorite!). Cool. Interestingly, the proprietor said she hated that sa cha sauce because it is too sweet - but it isn't sweet at all (I was worried she was thinking satay peanut sauce). Hmm...
Speaking of the proprietor, she was definitely talkative and eager to please (cue Monty Python: "they're always willing and they're ready to please!"). They are open until 1AM, and she said that if it looks like I will be coming in close to 1AM, then I can call her in advance and she'll stay open later. I'm sure I'll exploit that opportunity one of these days.
In fact, I ate so much that when I was rubbing my belly on the street afterwards, one of the hawker vendors told me that my belly was so round that it looked like these giant pomelo fruits below. Ha ha.