I thought it would be so fun to give him his own space on my blog and thankfully he agreed! I hope to have him on the blog regularly and I'm sure you'll pick up some great culinary tips. (Check out his inaugural post here)
This week, my husband writes about one of my favorite Chinese meals: hot pot! One of the perks of being in an interracial marriage is that I get to experience all the wonderful things (and food!) about my husband's Chinese culture. I hope you enjoy it as well!
Homemade Hot Pot
Chinese Hot Pot has been around forever. (According to Wikipedia) It originated in Mongolia over 1000 years ago, and slowly moved its way south, and now it's a common meal eaten throughout the country.
I love hot pot because it is more than a meal, it is an experience. Family, friends, and loved ones commune together to experience a meal. It is a meal that reminds me of a slower lifestyle, a simpler time, and is more about communication and bonding than nutrition and calories. I realize I'm romanticizing it but, hot pot really is a great way to spend time with those you care about. A typical hot pot meal lasts HOURS, and in my experience involves a lot of laughing.
So enough anticipation! What is hot pot?!? Simply put, it is a broth soup/stew. It is cooked at the dining table, and usually involves a lot of meat. The pot of soup is placed on top of a cooking device (be it electric or gas ... or coal) in the middle of everyone eating, and is boiling the entire meal. You place raw foods inside cooking while you eat. As thinly sliced pieces of meat get cooked, you take them out and eat them, and continue cooking while you chat.
Because this type of food has existed for so long and is found in so many parts of Asia, there are many variations and ways to go about doing your style of hot pot. But the main idea is the same. A central cooking pot (or pots), lots of raw food (both veggies and meat), a few good friends, and a couple of hours.
Get some raw meat. Usually, I go to the local Asian market, and pick up some thinly sliced meats (I like getting beef & lamb, but chicken and pork are also good options). I guess you could go to the local non-Asian markets and have the butcher slice it for you, but I just find its easier to have it pre-sliced. A co-worker of mine told me she bought a deli slicer for home JUST to slice hot pot meat... and I guess that's the cheapest way to do it...
This is totally optional, as typically I pick this up based on my wallet size. Mostly I get shrimp & imitation crab. But I've seen people do actual crab, lobster, and fish...
Get some veggies you like. I prefer to get baby bok choy, lettuce, and mushrooms... but I've seen people put in peppers, cabbage, bamboo shoots.... the world is your playground, get creative! (I would not suggest something like potatoes as they tend to melt in soup... but hey, whatever)
Pick a soup base. I use beef or chicken stock. But, some people get creative and make their own soups. You can look up recipes online... but I like to keep things simple and just pour in a couple of cartons of stock.
If you feel adventurous, grab some carbs... I feel like in this point, I do like to stay pretty Asian themed, so I would suggest rice noodles (they are glassy looking noodles that are super thin) or rice cakes (little white discs). These are tried and true, and can't steer you wrong.
Depending on your comfort level, there are also a variety of things you can also add that aren't carried in places except Asian markets. These are fish-balls (like meatballs, but with fish!), egg dumplings, tempura, and crab sticks.
- About an hour before your meal, put the stock into a pot with any meat balls or veggies that take longer to cook (mushrooms & cabbage...). Start boiling the broth to get it nice and hot.
- As people begin to get hungry start setting up the table. Arrange the different foods around the hot pot, making sure everyone has access to all the varieties of food you have painstakenly foraged.
- Right before the meal, move the boiling broth from the range to your portable cooker. I use a little tabletop propane burner I got at a Korean market. (My parents use an old electric stove... whatever you have, as long as you can control the temp, works)
Each person should have a small bowl of dipping sauce. These sauces are pretty easy to make. And they really depend on person to person. Growing up, I always used a raw egg, soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil. In China, I was introduced to a sesame paste that they add to their sauce. I have seen some sauces with just soy sauce and salt and pepper.
And... Eat. If you are using chopsticks in the raw meat, I suggest keeping them in the boiling water for a couple of seconds, just to sanitize them & keep them nice and germ free... But other than that, cook your meat, and veggies... The food already in the pot is communal for everyone to take as they like (maybe keep some slotted spoons available for easier scooping). Some people like to put a bunch of meat all at once, some people put one piece at a time. If, for instance, you grew up in a household where your cousin always stole your food... you might be inclined to put in one piece at a time, guarding it carefully with your chopsticks until it is fully cooked, and taking back each piece before putting your head down to eat. But again, whatever you are comfortable with.
Most important: Enjoy!
Seriously you guys, hot pot is SO yummy and it's super easy to make at home. If you live in a diverse area where there is a prominent Chinese community, try hitting up a local hot pot restaurant if you're not sure you can make this dish yourself. Either way, I encourage you to give it a try!
Anyone else in an interracial or intercultural relationship and love the food of your spouse's culture? Give me some recommendations!