After a fun day at People's Park, I returned back to Charlie's apartment. In the evening, I joined him and his girlfriend for some errands. We went to Nanuna again. One of the owners was at a table and invited us to join him for vodka with chocolate-flavored tea. It was a tasty combination, and we drank quite a bit of it while lounging in the comfortable couches. We ended up sticking around until 2:30 am when they closed the place down.
We'd been meaning to organize a Hot Pot experience for me since I arrived, and the opportunity to get some friends together had finally arrived. Hot Pot is a popular approach to dining in Chengdu (and perhaps all of China?). You sit at a table with a circle cut in the middle and a gas burner. You order regular or spicy oil, and a giant bowl of it is brought out and heated up at your table. You then select the veggies and meats you want to cook in the oil. After you cook the food, you dip it in a small bowl of cooler oil and consume.
Watching the vat of spicy reddish oil heat up was quite a sight. It slowly began to gurgle and bubble. Charlie began to order items from the menu, picking out pig brains for the guest of honor (me). So thoughtful! And I was up for the challenge.
As plates of raw beef, liver, lotus root, cabbage and potato began to arrive, they were dumped into the oil. We decided to leave the pig brain out of the mix in the beginning, as another guy at the table was uneasy at the thought of it cooking in the same oil as his food. The oil was VERY spicy. After a few minutes, it started to feel like my lips were more than just tingling or on fire, they were dancing with heat. It was intense.
As everyone got their fill, I was instructed to put half of the pig brain on a slotted spoon and hold it under the oil for a few minutes. The raw brain looked exactly like what you'd expect, and cooking it did little to change the appearance. When I was told it was done, I plopped it into the small bowl of oil in front of me. Several people took photos with their cell phones as my camera battery had died. If they're out there reading…please send me the photos!!!
So imagine a brain the size of your fist, half sunk in a bowl of oil, sitting in front of you at 3am. Your only tools for consumption are a pair of chopsticks. I began to clip off small pieces of the whitish cerebrum. The consistency was very soft and mushy, and it lacked a distinct flavor. After a few bites, my curiosity was satiated and I threw in the proverbial towel.