Dry hot pot has been catching fire for the past few years in Asia and is getting diners all fired up in L.A. as well.
A specialty dish from Sichuan and Chongqing, it is essentially Sichuan hot pot—only without the soup. Dry hot pot is a saucy stir-fry using many of the aromatics and spices found in traditional hot pot.
This raging, flaming dish is especially potent at the new Spice Spirit in Monterey Park. The frog casserole dry hot pot is a mix of soy bean sprouts, potato planks, and celery sticks in addition to the bony chunks of miscellaneous frog parts. The potato does a delicious job at absorbing the peppery flavors and dialing it down a notch with its starch content. There is also a fermented depth to the pot that likely comes from a red pepper paste. This all should be eaten with a merciful bowl of bland steamed rice.
With dry hot pot, diners don't dip raw ingredients (beef slices, for example) into a hot seasoned broth at the table. Rather, all of the ingredients are fully cooked and ready to eat. Some of the standard flavorings that go into this extremely spicy concoction are garlic, ginger, green onion, Sichuan peppercorn, cilantro, and, of course, dried red peppers.
Dry hot pot's unique spiciness is known as “ma la” in Mandarin, which translates into “numbingly hot." The flavor of the pot is pretty much one dimensional with every component reinforcing a very sharp, stinging heat that borders on medicinal, like a traditional Chinese apothecary going up in flames.
The “dry” version of hot pot is more intense than its cousin—and can be more vicious. This dry heat is a threat.
Spice Spirit, 216 W. Garvey Ave., Ste. A, Monterey Park, 626-991-8188.