Wednesday, February 21, 2007

New Year's Hot Pot

To celebrate the Year of the Golden Pig, my family gathered around to eat hot pot. Redneckhunter says he's always liked how Chinese food is eaten in many stages over a long course of time. And even in this seemingly simple meal, there's a definitive progression.

We started with five cold dishes: drunk chicken, pressed pork, bamboo shoots with mushrooms and tofu, daikon with scallion oil, and a dish of 8 vegetarian ingredients eaten because the Chinese word for 8, ba, rhymes with the word for prosperity, fa.

Then the bubbling broth was brought out. You start the hot pot with the proteins: thinly sliced pork and beef, shrimp with shells on, fish balls, egg dumplings, tofu, and fish fillets.

Since everything is fresh and non-marinated, simply boiled quickly in broth, the dipping sauce is key -- I made a mixture of raw egg, soy, and chili.

Baskets are supposed to help everyone hold on to their own stuff, but things float away, arguments always ensue. I always find it a treat when you put your basket in and by the time you pull it back out, you've more in there than you started with!

Next come the vegetables -- sliced large mushrooms, pea shoots, cabbage. These are just thrown in communally. You can't do veggies simlutaneously with meat as they leaves cause too much obfuscation in the pot, and you'll never find your piece of meat if it floats away...

Last are the starches. Again there's a logic to it all. The starches are always last because they cloud and thicken up the broth. We had translucent broad rice noodles and blocks of sticky rice cake. By this time the broth has absorbed all the flavors of all the meats, fish, and vegetables that had been cooking in it, so the noodles just soaked up all that rich delicious flavor. We ended the meal with non-traditional huckleberry sorbet.

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