Jess Food Therapy
酸菜白肉鍋 @ 圍爐
It’s that time of the month again.

Funny how I eat around sixty meals a month but only feel inspired to
write once in every blue moon. I guess it’s becoming harder and harder to pick out which of the hundred good meals I’ve been eating is worth calling out over the others.

But today, the decision was made easy by the cold, gloomy, rainy weather.  As soon as I opened my eyes this morning, all I could think about was hiding underneath my warm, cozy blanket and staying there until the sun came out to play again. As I struggled internally, another thought came to me, this time in the form of a giant, steamy pot, embellished with tender beef & pork slices, oysters, crab meat, mushrooms, corn, leafy greens, tempura, peanut sauce, soy sauce, vinegar…  

Oh yes – I happily thought as I got out of bed – I’m having
HOTPOT tonight. J


Besides being my
favorite dish in the whole wide world, hotpot boasts quite a long and mysterious history. Some says this dish traces all the way back to the 三國時 (Three Kingdoms Era), when 銅鼎 (Copper Tripod) was the original hotpot predecessor. Others believe hotpot belonged to Northern Han Era, since the word “hotpot” was found in their archaeological literatures. Either way, it’s safe to say that this magical Chinese potage has been a centerpiece for many, many, many families over the last 1700 years!

For those who’ve never had hot pot before, I encourage you to give it a try. I guarantee everyone will love it because ultimately, you are your own chef. You decide what goes in the pot, and what goes in your mouth.
Just know that whoever you are, wherever you are, there’s a safe place for you in the world of hotpot. 

If you are a carnivore, you have beef, pork, chicken, and lamb slices and meat balls to choose from. For my seafood lovers, throw in the fish, prawns, clams, mussels, crabs legs, muscles, and octopus. If you’re a vegetarian, don’t even sweat (no pun intended), hotpot cannot survive without the deliciousness of cabbage, spinach, daikon, tofu, tomato, and corn since the veggies ultimately makeup the foundation of the soup.  

Today, there are over a hundred hot pot variations, each with different personalities. Some of my favorites include:
  • 麻辣鍋(Spicy or “ma la”), a Sichuan-styled hotpot where 花椒 (flower pepper or Sichuan pepper), 鴨血(duck blood) and tofu are meticulously added to guarantee a bad night sleep yet a second round the week following.
  • 酸菜白肉鍋, a Manchurian–styled hotpot cooked with copious amount of pickled cabbage & thin pork slices to create the perfect mild & sour soup base. 
  • Sukiyaki (or Suki), a Japanese-influenced hotpot version which uses sweetened soy sauce, butter, and onion which completely immerse itself inside the beef & cabbage slices.
  • Then of course, there’s 刷羊肉 (instant-boiled lamb), 鴛鴦鍋 (yin-yang or half spicy/half mild), lu (Vietnamese), Steamboat (Singapore & Malaysia), Thai Suki, etc. 
But of course, hotpot is much more than a big bowl of never-ending scrumptiousness. For me, eating hotpot is a sacred moment. I only share it with the people I'm closest to. I've realized that as we get older & our lives get more complicated, it has become harder and harder for us to squeeze in any time for our family, friends and even ourselves. As it turns out, the only time we all try to make available is dinnertime! 

And unlike other meals that can be eaten in front of a TV or chowed down in minutes, hotpot takes time, patience, careful watch, and actually requires everyone to sit down together at the same dinner table. It's during times like these that families and friends get to catch up on each others' lives while enjoying each other's company. For some odd, supernatural reason - whether it's the round shape of the pot or the aromatic steam from the soup or the variety of fresh ingredients... whatever it is, hotpot has an indescribable endorphin-charged, magical power that somehow makes people happy.

And nothing beats happiness, even if it's temporary :)


Here's my humble instructions on how you should tackle this beautiful mess: 

  1. Gather your family and/or best friends (the more the merrier) around a big, round table and plop the giant baby smack in the middle
  2. Order everything you like on the menu (don’t forget to order an ice cold one)
  3. Once the soup boils, dump everything in
  4. As the ingredients cook, let your stomach gurgle and your mouth salivate 
  5. Focus in on your target: I'm talking about that big, fat juicy slice of beef
  6. Get your chopsticks & spoon ready! 
  7. It's war! Grab ‘em while they’re hot
  8. Enjoy an hour of heaven J 

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03/08/2010 18:14

hey! you gotta give ppl instructions on how to 涮 the meat slices!!!

and you are making me very hungry...good job!


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