Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Pot is HOT!

As you know, I am an adventurous eater and have tried lots of things.  And considering how many times I've been to China, I am almost embarassed to tell you that I had not tried hot pot until last week!  (I should add however, that I once had an incredible nabe at Mari and Simon's and that's basically a Japanese hot pot, so I'm not a total brute.) 

I am sure most of you have had hot pot before, but for those of you who haven't, I'll explain.  You choose a flavored broth (or two), and then you choose your ingredients, and then you cook said ingredients in aforementioned broth.  You also combine elements like peanut sauce and soy sauce and spicy chilis and garlic to make your own customized dipping sauce.  My mom keeps relating to it as a Chinese "fondue."  Yeah, sorta.  But much spicier (if you're into that) and with zero cheese.

Turns out there is a swell (and clean!  I am big on "clean" since my last bout Shanghai tummy trouble.) hot pot place on the same block as my hotel.  I was lucky to have Flora and her boyfriend Gary to show me the ropes.  We had to wait for a table, but they brought us sweet corn crunchers, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, and some soy drinks--all in after-school-snack-style plasticware.  There was also a girl doing nails in the same waiting area.  While I admired her initiative, I really don't like nails being did anywhere near a restaurant.  But once we went upstairs for the hot potting, all was forgotten.

You choose all of your ingredients from an extensive list.  Of note here are the "Duck Guts."  Way not to class it up, Mr. Interpreter.  We got shrimp and pork balls, shrimp paste balls, beef balls, some other kind of shrimp ball filled with pork (what can't they ball over here?), beef, lamb, scallops, and all sorts of veggies including lotus root, black fungus, and my favorite the Chinese yam.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

We chose a non-spicy mushroom broth and a spicy chili broth.  You can tell which is which.

Some of our spread.  The oranges did not go in, FYI.

They give you a bag for your cellphone as it can get messy.  I like to live dangrously, however, and left my cellphone en plein air.  Yee-haw!

My customized dippin' sauce, pre-mixing.

I think this was about when I threw in the towel.  You can see that it gets a smidge messy.

Two girls full of hot pot!