As a national foodie, my tastes have been quite sheltered. My worldly tongue has been confined to the U.S. until now. I am on a quest to find the truly delicious. The perfect bite! I will scour the world until I have discovered this holy grail of cuisine. Beginning my travels in Turkiye, I shall broaden my tongue's horizons and become a true bon vivant!

Huo Guo 火锅; Chengdu, Sichuan, China

       Huo Guo, or Hot Pot, is a traditional Sichuan meal. Basically, you take everything edible you can think of and things you didn't think were edible, and drop it strategically into a giant pot of spicy boiling oil. My first experience, we let the only Chinese girl in our party do the ordering...bad idea. We told her to order what ever was "typical." She went crazy, ordering everything from a mountain of beef to cows' throat, from mushrooms (ick!) to ducks' blood and pigs' brains. And being the culinary pioneer that I am, I tried it all!
       First, we put in these little hotdogs that resembled lil' smokies you find at a light hors d'oeuvre party...except, after they cooked, they split open and resembled strange pork butterflies or flowers. My horrible Chinese interpretation leads me to call them zhu hua...Pig flower. The little hotdog butterflies weren't bad. Let me explain the process: First, you check off what you want and the quagoat the hands of your personal hot pot. You also receive a little bowl with more oil, you have the option of adding salt, garlic, MSG, and other unidentifiable spices. Upon deliverance of all your items, you put them in strategically. This "strategy" of timing is unknown to me, I suggest you bring a Chinese person with you, But take part in the ordering!

       Okay, so after the little hot dogs, everything else just kind of went in. And when our friend, Xianyou told us it was ready, we reached in with our chop stix and plucked out a piece of our choice. Then dipped it in our own oily mixture and ate it. All of it pretty much tasted the same, texture was the only variable. The brain wasn't bad, just strange. The throat was tough. And the ducks' blood I actually liked! It was cool, it melted in your mouth like sugar. When the blood showed up to our table it looked exactly like a big bowl of freshly made cherry jello, but after boiling it lost almost all of its tautness and was just blobby and less cohesive. The mountain of meat was good and familiar. And the vegetables were delicious; lotus root, cauliflower, and potatoes. Last, you eat the noodles, but I was all too full to put another thing in my mouth.

     The experience was terrific and all in all, necessary when traveling to Sichuan province. In all its strangeness, I'm glad I tried Huo Guo. However, for the rest of the evening, I writhed in pain in the fetal position for the duration of the night, forcing me to pass on future invitations to this cultural feast. I strongly urge one to try, only once, this cultural meal of Chengdu. I met other foreigners who loved Hot Pot; it just wasn't for me.

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