Saturday, January 1, 2011

Hot pot

Last night I enjoyed a festive, delicious dinner with Jenny's family perfect for welcoming a new year. In contrast to the individual hot pots we had at Wu Ji's (entry below), Chinese hot pot is better known for its communal aspect, bringing friends and family together over a single stew. Jenny's mom and dad indulged us by procuring a wide array of meats, including shrimp, squid, scallops, salmon, lamb, beef and pork. In the mid-Peninsula where we live, I'd recommend 99Ranch as a one-stop shop. For convenience, get the packs that come with the meat pre-sliced.

At the dinner table, complementing all of these meats well, whether the animal swam or walked, was a condiment based on Chinese barbecue sauce. It was slightly salty, but not tangy. Try, for example, the barbecue sauce by Bullhead that comes in a silver can. It's important to watch the meats closely, as the red meats especially can get tough quickly. Once the meat changes color, it's time to pull it out. My vigilant sister-in-law spoiled us by keeping a close eye on doneness, pulling out a constant stream of food while I was munching away, blissfully unaware that food risked getting overdone in the cooker.

The best part is the soup left over at the end of the dinner. Delicious flavors extracted from the beef, pork, lamb, seafood and vegetables after an hour or so of stewing combine provide an unbeatable experience for the palate. As I grew up, my parents would save some vegetables for the very end, as we did last night, to provide a soft crunch to go with the meaty broth. For full enjoyment, remember your skimmer! You'll want to remove the brownish foam that accumulates at the surface throughout the dinner.