In the dead of winter, traditional Chinese hot pot might be the perfect remedy. My thought process of the last month: Quick! Before winter ends… and it’s going to end soon… You have one final thing to accomplish. A hot pot feast at home!
I adore everything about hot pot. Thinly sliced meats — like beef, lamb, chicken — perched delicately in a mesh wire basket, are lowered into a bubbling cauldron dotted with floating mushrooms, a tangle of rice noodles, cubes of tofu, and a mysterious thicket of vegetables. As the meat simmers to doneness, the fixings, like a big spoonful of spicy, rich sesame sauce, are arranged in a tiny bowl, alongside a few wedges of crisp Chung Yao Bing, or a savory scallion pancake. As the night crawls forward, the broth gets thicker, meatier, richer, condensed with the dazed memories of the meats and the seafood that entered and exited its steamy world.
My fondness for hot pot has been documented on this site before. There’s that time I had it in Hong Kong, which was pretty mind-blowing. But organizing a hot pot feast at home — as I did once in California — is not even that hard, and maybe even more fun than going out. So for my friend Karine’s birthday, I knew right away that I wanted to throw her a party that we’d all remember forever.
The day of the dinner, we drove down to Chinatown and scooped up all of the ingredients for a proper hot pot experience. As for prep, that’s about it. The night of the party, it’s an every-man-or-woman-for-himself kind of situation. You make the food as you crave it, gulp it down as soon as it’s ready, and don’t stop until you’re about stuffed, practically hallucinating with pleasure, peering through the steamy room that feels as hot as a sauna.
It’s the best way to say zàijiàn to winter.