I studied abroad in Beijing, China for 1 semester in college. It was the most amazing experience of my life. As most people who study abroad know, you can never really explain it, you just have to live it. Coming back home after such an experience is difficult, because everyone wants to know about your time abroad, but the parts you most want to tell them aren’t what they want to hear. It can leave you feeling lonely and sad to not be able to share those memories. The great thing is that pictures tell your story. So does food.
Hot pot (火锅) is basically Chinese fondue. In China, there are hot pot restaurants everywhere, and you order what you want to put in the pot and then cook your own food, pulling out goodies as the pot boils on your table. My husband and I decided a few years ago that we needed an electric hot pot for the house. We called all over Memphis and eventually found a little Asian grocery in midtown. It was the shadiest place I have ever been in. The grocery items were covered in dust and most had expired at least 1 year prior. But, we found a hot pot there, so I hope they are doing well – whatever they were doing there.
Hot pot starts with liquid, and this varies by region in China. I’m used to the Beijing style hot pot, but our local farmer’s market carries “hua jiao,” which are Sichuan peppercorns that are spicy and numb your tongue. I add them to the stock for flavor. I also find that fresh jalapenos are great in hot pot, but it’s definitely not Chinese!
Hot pot is served with dipping sauces, and while the broth was warming up, I made a peanut sauce that I created specifically for hot pot. It is sooo good, and no, I will not give anyone the recipe. You just have to come to my house for dinner sometime.
I use a variety of vegetables, meats, and noodles. On this particular occasion, we had bok choy, mushrooms, thinly sliced beef, tofu, and rice noodles.
After the broth is boiling, just drop in what you like and wait for it to cook. Pick out whatever you can get your chopsticks on! It’s like a game.
When it’s cold outside, there’s nothing better than hot pot. I highly recommend getting one. They are fun for dinner parties, and people will think you are sophisticated and exotic.