Friday, April 2, 2010

Hot Pot

... It's the fondue of China!

Now this is what I call a truly gastronomic experience. Chinese Hot Pot. And surprising that this is the first time I've tried it, considering how many Chinese friends I now have in Finland. My good friend MK is from the Northern regions of China, Shenyang, and apparently it's not as popular there as say, in my friend LY's region of Sichuan. In any case, I love LY's cooking for the awesome spiciness she puts into everything. That's how they do things in the kitchens of Sichuan, and I could definitely get used to that.

So hot pot has been referred to as the Chinese version of fondue. I haven't had proper fondue to speak of, unfortunately, but my guess is that hotpot still blows fondue out of the water. The idea is that it's a communal process, starting with one dish of something fragrant, like in this case, chicken wings with chilies and black flower mushrooms (not 'fungus' as we discussed).

The hot pot takes center stage, and all the hungry feasters sit around with their chopsticks, taking one piece at a time and discarding the bones. The pan rests on a bunson burner of sorts, an electrical table-top stove, to keep the dish warm through the eating process (yes, process, since it took the 7 of us several hours to finish our meal) Once the chicken has been mostly devoured (and it was) and the remaining fats and spices from the meat are still in the pan, water is added, to create a flavorful broth. Then, the other ingredients are added one at a time.

Just to name of a few of the ingredients.....
Crab and fish balls, fish steaks....

multiple types of mushrooms, chopped tomatoes, whole leaves of lettuce, thin strips of beef, bamboo shoots...

I'm probably forgetting some other ingredients, but it seems that really anything goes!
I liken the experience to using one of those stuffed animal claw machine games, in which try as you may, whatever you have in the claw slips out just before you have finally gotten it. That's how it goes when you're a Westerner trying to eat a soup like dish with chopsticks!! I really started to get the hang of it though. Still trying to work with the Chinese on their fork and knife skills.....
We ate this with a side of sticky rice balls in sugar water and finished with my quick and dirty chocolate pudding and ice cream.

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