Sizzling Gourmet (Cupertino)

“Dry pot” has become a standard feature of local Sichuan and Hunan restaurants. Unlike hot pot, where ingredients are cooked at the table in liquid, ingredients for dry pot are stir-fried in the kitchen and warmed at your table in a metal pan over a sterno. Warming keeps the food aromatic, and to an extent, keeps the food from feeling too oily.

Sizzling Gourmet specializes in dry pot, and is one of a handful of restaurants that allow the diner to choose their own adventure rather than select from a pre-chosen combinations of ingredients. Parallel to how hot pot works, diners choose one of five seasoning sauces, a main item, and optional add-on “sides” such as fresh vegetables, mung bean noodles, tofu products, etc. Over 20 meats/seafood come with complimentary potato, cauliflower, celery, and bean sprouts. There’s also chef specials, like Hunan crawfish, that don’t come with default sides, and a vegetarian option which allow you to pick 4 sides on top of the default.

I’m the kind of person who spends five minutes deliberating what to order at an omelette station, so I appreciated the help of the owner. He guided me to cabbage and tofu skin as add-ons to my order of frog with medium-spicy “spicy sauce”. I also got celtuce because it’s one of my favorite vegetables.

The vegetables got a charge of umami from doubanjiang, fermented fava bean and chili sauce, and extra chili flavor from whole dried chilies. The frog stayed succulent throughout the meal, and the owner attributed this to using fresh frog, which he said most restaurants don’t use.

The portions are much larger than you would get from a standard stir-fry, and more manageable to eat later than hot pot. They no longer offer the small version. With a side of smashed cucumbers and a side order of rice, I expect my leftovers from the medium to be enough for two more meals.

Sizzling Gourmet
19541 Richwood Dr, Cupertino, CA 95014

Thanks for the report. How do you like the dish overall, besides the succulence of the frog?

For the dry pot category in general, is it more unique than an oversized customize-able stir fry dish kept warm?

Ha, I accidentally submitted the post before finishing :slight_smile: liked it a lot, and the vegetables were my favorite part. Cauliflower carries the heat, and the cabbage was as intense as in the wok charred cabbage I’ve had as a side dish elsewhere.

Yeah, I can’t help but think that I’m missing something fundamental here. I’ve read a few internet articles and they seem to emphasize that dry pot is like hot pot, only without the liquid so that the flavors are more potent. How that differs from standard wok dishes I’m not sure. The reliance on dry spices is certainly different than Cantonese stir fries, but the overall flavor and ingredients don’t strike me as atypical for Hunan or Sichuan dishes, though the texture is dry rather than saucy or oily.

The owner said that some ingredients benefit from drying out, but it is mostly a presentation style. I didn’t notice any extra charring like you’d get with a cast iron plate. Then again, I was eating it solo and keeping extra for lunch, so it’s possible I missed out on some type of transformation in flavor or scaling of intensity as a group would get to the bottom of the dish.

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I looked through a few recipes. The process, for example from the Wok of Life is:

(1) make spice infused oil and remove solids
(2) heat aromatics, including doubanjiang, in the infused oil, including hot pot soup base, 火锅底料 (MSG source?)
(3) add cabbage, dried chilies, and green onions
(4) add blanched vegetable and pre-cooked meats

A recipe from the NYC’s Mala Project, listed on tasting table, has you cook the meat in the chili oil, and uses a fresh chili paste rather than doubanjiang and hot pot soup base (the chef tweaked the recipe to accommodate ingredient availability in an unknown way).

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So it seems like the difference is the heating of the spices in the oil.

I finally tried a dry pot, not at Sizzling Gourmet, but at Sizzling Pot King in Sunnyvale and understood a little bit more about the concept. We did put out the sterno a few minutes in just to keep the meat from overcooking. Though I think with stirring its probably not necessary as the fire seemed to be enough in heating the bottom part of the pot only.

Did you feel that the sterno was sufficient to add a sear to any of the items in the pot? I got the Sichuan sauce, spicy, dry pot at Celestial Flame in the inner Richmond last week and suspect my selection of add-ons caused there to be too much moisture in the pot for searing. All of the items were cooked to the right texture as they were served, but the flame underneath didn’t do anything to build more flavor. The base was still tasty – –I think we ordered cabbage, tofu knots, tofu bamboo, squid, quail eggs (unpickled), lotus root, Rice cakes, and Choy sum.

I’d say not. Searing needs pretty high heat. The sterno was sufficient in heating the bottom of the pot and probably drying out the ingredients if it kept heating. The fire that generates wok hay in kitchen is gigantic, and I certainly wouldn’t want that at the table!

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