Feed Me, Leicester: Sichuan Brothers Hotpot (Woohoo!)

Remember last week when those guys at Momondo took us out for lunch at Kayal down on Granby Street and we stuffed ourselves on spicy seafoody things and massive dosas stuffed with lovely fragrant smashed spud and whatnot?

Well, this week they took us out for dinner at another establishment of my choice.

After walking past a certain nondescript Chinese hotpot place on the main road down into the city centre a number of times and admiring the brutally authentic menu taped to the window (hello bullfrog, haven’t seen you for a while!) and sizing up the clientele (mostly Chinese students from the university just up the road), we decided we really ought to investigate.

We had been away from Shanghai just long enough to feel nostalgic.

Aside from the lack of a permanent fug of cheap cigarette smoke and a crowd of middle aged men drinking 500ml bottles of watery lukewarm 3% TsingTao or Snow beer with their shirts shoved up over their round bellies and trousers rolled up to their knees, it was pretty spot on for a low key hot pot joint.

The disposable thin plastic table cloths, massive technicolour posters of available dishes and the disposable chopsticks in paper wrappers brought the memories flooding back. The staff, hailing from Beijing, were lovely and warm and welcoming and gave Thwack some excellent cuddles.

 

Students

They liked their meal.

 

Do not be put off by the volcano of flames erupting from the center of the hotpot as illustrated below. British health and safety standards would never allow for anything so interesting. What we got was a pair of very effective portable hot plates on our tables (there were 5 of us, plus Thwack), heating a pair of good sized soup pots for the broth.

We went on a Wednesday night and it was very quiet, aside from a few tables full of Chinese students who didn’t seem to be actually eating but were pretty happy being there anyway. Maybe it’s like those KFCs and McDonalds in Chinese train stations, where half of the customers are just there for a nice place to nap before their train.

Although the window says the hotpot costs 14.99, it was only 12.99 on the menu inside. We paid the latter.

 

eat as much as you can

Not all you can eat, but perhaps more accurate

 

They also have two very different a la carte menus, which I really liked. You can get your standard British Chinese takeaway fare, all deep fried pork balls covered in sweet and sour sauce or beef and broccoli or fried rice and whatnot, or you can get beef tendon or lotus or lily or frog or offal. Oh, and those lovely vinegary shoestring potatoes. I love those.

 

50 kuai meal deal

Shredded potatoes! 5 quid meal deal!

 

The menu, should you wish to be brave and try the authentic Chinese-Chinese version, is extensive and impressive and daunting.

 

menu in Chinese

They have a standard Englishified menu and an alternate uber-Chinese one.

 

When we sat down at our plastic sheet covered table, we were given a complimentary basket of something I had totally forgotten was even a thing: those prawn crackers and sweet dipping sauce.  It still tasted of styrofoam to me, but that’s not unexpected.

 

prawn crackers

Er, I never did get these in Shanghai. Styrofoam in dipping sauce!

 

They had TsingTao beer (and Carlsberg and Tiger), which regrettably and surprisingly came in tiny little 350-ish ml sized bottles rather than the massive ones we were used to. They tasted much better than I remembered though. With about an extra percent and a half or so of alcohol thrown in for the export market. Served cold. Cold!

I can’t believe how pleasing that was. Cold TsingTao, without us having to specifically ask for it!

 

tsingtao

Tiny little laowai sized TsingTao beers, ice cold and deliciously 4.7%.

 

Since we were intent on having the hotpot, we went straight to the hotpot menu, ignoring the lure of the massive a la carte menu. We ordered pretty much everything on it.

Just so you know, they bring out British portion sizes, not Chinese. We ended up with a lot of food. Too much. Seriously.

 

hot pot menu

We ordered one of everything

 

This was the lamb. It was a lot of lamb. We also had beef, pork and chicken. And prawns, mussels, fake crab sticks and fish balls and three kinds of tofu.  And all the veggies.

 

Portions are remarkably generous. This was the lamb and it was lovely.

Portions are remarkably generous. This was the lamb and it was lovely.

 

Let me show you some of what else we got.

 

This was the big pot of spicy Sichuan peppercorn broth. It wasn’t dumbed down. It was properly hot and numbing. We also had a half and half pot, with one side being just mild mannered sensible broth. I hear it was good but I was busy being happily scorched from the inside.

 

beef hotpot

Is that cow in your hotpot or are you happy to see me?

 

A small selection of all the greens they gave us

A small selection of all the greens they gave us

 

huoguo

I forgot to take a picture of the whole thing until it was looking a bit mad.

 

mapodoufu

And just out of curiosity, we also ordered the mapo doufu from the a la carte menu and it was spot on. Well done, cooks!

 

Oh, and Thwacky really liked the peanut dipping sauce. I thought about giving him a taste of the broth but I don’t think his baby taste buds are quite ready for Sichuan peppercorns yet.

 

Eating with chopsticks and baby

Thwack was a blur of motion and drool, and by the end of the evening had splatters of dipping sauce and peppercorn broth all over the top of his head from flailing while I tried to eat with chopsticks.

 

takeaway chinese

We had ordered too much so they let us package it up to take home. This reminded me of heading back to the flat in Shanghai with a styrofoam bowl of malatang in plastic bags hooked over both handlebars on the bike.

 

Sichuan Brothers Restaurant

169A London Road, Leicester, England

Tel: 116 2547 302

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About MaryAnne

I live in Hanoi. I used to live in Shanghai (hence this blog's title) but I left in 2013. I tend to travel. I cook stuff. I read a lot. I try to scare myself silly with regularity. I write about it all. A lot.