Friday, March 27, 2009

The Hot Pot Experience

One of my favorite meals in China is hot pot, especially when winter tenaciously refuses to leave the Dongbei. By the last week in March, there should be some sign of the approaching spring. However, since we're perpetually stuck in the 30s here (we're talking Fahrenheit here folks...not Celsius...and we're talking HIGHS), hot pot is the perfect meal to warm you up. This past week Sarah and I headed out to her favorite hot pot restaurant, and I just happened to have my camera along. So without further ado, let me introduce you to the hot pot experience.

Step one: The sauces.
These are what I like to refer to as the "mystery sauces"; who knows what goes in them. Actually, the one on the left is not a mystery. Those are hot pepper flakes. Beware, they are very spicy! But the other two are mysteries. We can call them green goo and red goo. They're supposed to be mixed in with the primary hot pot sauce, majiang (sesame sauce).

Sarah is brave. She adds the mystery sauces to her majiang. I'm a chicken who doesn't like to add green slimy mystery substances to an already delightful sauce.

Step two: Wait for the water to boil.
Usually, this happens quite speedily because the helpful waitress will turn the flame up really high. On this evening, though, we had a faulty flame. Consequently, we learned first hand what the idiom "a watched pot never boils" means.

Step three: find some kind of entertainment while waiting for pot of water to boil.
For example, have your friend take a picture of you. Yes, people will stare at you and think you're a bit silly, but let's be honest, they'd be staring even if you weren't taking pictures.

Step four: Add in the "stuff"
The "stuff" is entirely preferential. You can order pretty much any part of a lamb, cow, or chicken. Yes, any part. Don't doubt me. There are more green vegetables than you ever knew existed. If you're one of those crazy people who have a love affair with cilantro, you can order a heaping pile. Or, you can keep it simple like Sarah and I.

We began with potatoes. These take forever to cook, so they always get added first. They sink to the bottom of the pot, and serve as a nice end of the meal filler once you finally locate them thirty minutes later.

Next was some nice thinly sliced lamb. Don't be afraid of the fat. It's thinly sliced. So it's like it's not even there.

After that is my FAVORITE part of hot pot. The noodles. I would be happy with only noodles, dribbled with the majiang. Mmmmm. Yes, I love italian food. Yes, this is the closest thing I get to it in a Chinese restaurant.

Up next is the spinach. I never cared much for spinach in the States, but have an increasingly great fondness for it.

Finally, add in the tomatoes. Don't let them sit too long. They cook very fast. Hence, at this point I ditched the camera and dug in. Are you hungry yet?

Remember to vote for your favorite have two more days to get your votes in!


Heather said...

That looks so good!! When we stopped in Seoul on the way home we had a soup that was like a beef broth with noodles, scallions, thinly sliced pork that seemed to have been BBQ'd 1st, and spinach in the blanch lastly. It was so awesome--I still crave it!! And, I try to make it here at home.

Robb said...

I like this. Good work.