“Cold Pot Fish” at Yu Yue Men Leng Guo Yu (and getting ma la wasted) – Chengdu

Yu Yue Men Leng Guo Yu Hot Pot Restaurant - Chengdu

Do Chengdu residents eat spicy, numbing, oil-slicked delights at every meal? The Astronomer and I often wondered this during our Sichuan stay. Though we were never able to confirm locals’ dining habits, we consciously dedicated every meal to the stuff that burns, really burns, because we wanted to experience Chengdu’s cuisine to the fullest.

The spiciest meal of the trip, the one that made me feel downright intoxicated from all the chilies and peppercorns, was at Yu Yue Men Leng Guo Yu*, an emporium of communal dining.

Yu Yue Men Leng Guo Yu Hot Pot Restaurant - Chengdu

The only dish served here is “Cold Pot Fish” (leng guo yu), a Sichuan specialty in which perfectly cooked fish fillets, usually Silver Carp, are served in a “cold” hot pot to begin; the broth’s actual temperature is lukewarm. The hot pot’s burners are turned on when all of the fish has been eaten to avoid over-cooking the fish. Then, it’s a traditional hot pot experience complete with veggies, noodles, meat, and the like!

Yu Yue Men Leng Guo Yu Hot Pot Restaurant - Chengdu

In a futile attempt to keep the avalanche of numbing spice at bay, I sipped on Chinese Sunny-D, while The Astronomer chugged some beer.

Yu Yue Men Leng Guo Yu Hot Pot Restaurant - Chengdu

To start, a dark, murky broth was plopped into the empty slot at the center of our table.

Yu Yue Men Leng Guo Yu Hot Pot Restaurant - Chengdu

Sensing correctly that The Astronomer and I had absolutely no clue what we were doing, one of the gals who worked at the restaurant filled our small, individual bowls with fish, broth, and a large number of skinny beansprouts.

Yu Yue Men Leng Guo Yu Hot Pot Restaurant - Chengdu

Since “Cold Pot Fish” is meant to be consumed communally with a large group, our party of two was called on to plow through a whole lot of fish! Some fillets were perfectly boneless, while others had teeny tiny cumbersome bits. The Silver Carp’s flesh was unfailingly tender.

The aromatics, a heady blend of green peppercorns, scallions, fresh and dried chilies, and plenty more unidentifiable ingredients, challenged my spice-loving taste buds in a way I’d never before experienced. It was painful yet delicious—a wicked good dream.

Yu Yue Men Leng Guo Yu Hot Pot Restaurant - Chengdu

Once we had eaten every last morsel of fish, it was time to turn up the heat and pile in the goodies.

Yu Yue Men Leng Guo Yu Hot Pot Restaurant - Chengdu

From the selection of ingredients in the back, I chose two varieties of mushrooms, greens, bean curd sheets, and noodles.

Yu Yue Men Leng Guo Yu Hot Pot Restaurant - Chengdu

When we dialed up the heat to ten, the broth somehow tasted even spicier than before. I tried my darndest to be tough, but damn, this pot was hot—literally and figuratively.

I stumbled out of the restaurant completely ma la wasted—my head throbbing, my walk uneven. “Cold Pot Fish” isn’t for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. Proceed with extreme caution (and enjoy!).

* The restaurant’s name translates to “fish jump over gate cold pot fish,” which is an allusion to a Chinese legend. According to The Astronomer’s Chinese colleague, the emperor instituted a series of competitive exams in 700 AD to allow peasants a chance to earn their way into government. The Chinese relate this system to fish trying to jump over a gate at the end of the Yellow River. Many fish tried for a long time, and finally, one fish made it—the jumping over the gate was comparably difficult to passing the exam, and Chinese people say “fish over gate” to wish people good luck on tests like college entrance exams. The restaurant probably chose the name trying to attract families looking for good luck for their kids.

Yu Yue Men Leng Guo Yu (click here for Google map)
1 Dong Sheng Jie
HeJiangTing, Jin Jiang Qu
Chengdu, Sichuan, China, 610021 ‎

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