Hot Pot

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Last week we were up to our ankles in snow. I wore my hideously bright sunflower patterned galoshes so I wouldn't ruin my leather boots and kill myself on the slippery snow. Hubs very almost refused to walk next to me. But hey, rather an awfully attired wife than a dead one. It was the first snowfall of the year and any kind of precipitation for the last three months or so. This drought has been bad news for farmers as it's affected their winter crops. There were even news reports on CCTV of residents in the rural areas having not showered in a month.


So, yes. Ankles in snow. Temperatures got to as low as -14oC with the North Desert wind a-blowing. I swear on my wok I will never complain about the European winter again. What better way to spend the family evening meal than to huddle together over a hot pot?

A Chongqing specialty, there are hot pot restaurants all over Beijing. Take a walk downtown, you are likely to trip over one. The original Chongqing version is the ma la soup base. Ma la means numbingly spicy and you'd better believe it. A couple spoonfuls of soup and one loses sensation of tongue and lips, only because it feels like you've just swallowed fire. There's also the tamer, non spicy version catering to the lao wai or foreigner who's not used to hot ash peppers. It's also the very same soup base I use when we do the hot pot at home for Sonny-boy, who can't even bear regular pepper. Hubs is used to spicy food, he has to, having lived in Singapore for a good five years and marrying a girl of Peranakan descent.

This is the soup base using a recipe I swiped from one of the hotpot restaurants we dined at here. At the time I didn't have a pen handy so I committed the ingredients to memory and hoped for the best as my brain tends to get fuzzy when attempting to remember mundane things. Funny how it suddenly becomes crystal clear when it comes to shopping.

These are the ingredients of the soup base: chicken stock, spring onions, carrots, dried chinese mushroom, wolf berries, longans and red dates.

The principle of a hot pot meal is simple. It runs along the lines a cheese fondue or Singaporean steamboat. There's a huge pot of boiling soup in the middle of the table and everyone dips his or her morsel of food in the pot to cook it. There is no set list of ingredients, anything goes. At Cookalot, we love thinly sliced beef, meatballs, stuffed fish balls, jiao ji (meat dumplings), liver, tofu, mushrooms, vegetables.... just about anything that strikes our fancy. On this occasion, we decided to go simple and went easy on the selection. This may have something to do with the big Korean barbecue dinner the previous night. Our digestive tracts can only process so much goodness.

On the side were pulled noodles, deep fried bread balls and raw eggs. The eggs are poached in the soup. It's super, having the soft yolk run all over the noodles. Lekker!

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 5:51 am

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Babe anything on you would look great. Am sure you'll find a way to carry off those sunflowers :-)

The hot pot looks yummy too, mmm the thought of hot soup and fishballs...
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