Daily Archives: December 6, 2012

Chinese Hot Pot

If you live in the Northeast, you will recall a little storm that passed by here recently named Sandy.  The storm itself was interesting, cool & scary at the same time.  The aftermath was, and for some still is, challenging at best.  I was lucky to have only lost power for two weeks and got in shape walking everywhere due to a lack of gasoline in my car.  Others lost so much more and are still suffering.  My life and the life of those around me has now gotten more or less back to normal, and I hope that those of you who are still affected see quick progress very soon.  Our thoughts are with you.
As we counted the days without electricity and gasoline in our cars, we also counted on our neighbors for support.  It was wonderful to see everyone come together and help whenever possible.  Facebook and text messages became our lifelines to each other and for information.  We brought our children together in parks or each other’s homes to play as they suffered from boredom without school, TV & video games.  We took turns making meals from food that would have otherwise been thrown away due to spoilage and served them by candlelight.  We provided warmth to those without heat if only for short bursts of time and access to our wireless service if it was active.  In so many ways, tragic events serve to bring us closer together.
In the midst of our facebook/texting conversations, a small local group of us decided that whoever got their power back first would host a party for the rest.  The winners were L & W and the date was set for November 10th.  The menu – Chinese Hot Pot…….
Until this day I had never encountered this wonderful experience.  When we arrived, our hosts had the table setup for the event, and for me it was most certainly an event.  There were plates, bowls, spoons, chopsticks and a utensil that resembled something I might use to scoop out goldfish from their abode.  At the center of the table was a propane stove with a pot of bubbling broth.  Surrounding the pot were large plates of thinly sliced raw meat (beef & pork), mushrooms, fish balls, pork balls, tofu squares, dumplings in all shapes and sizes, quail eggs, regular eggs, watercress, cabbage & mushrooms.  At one end were more than a dozen jars & bottles of condiments of different kinds like soy sauce, rice wine, multiple varieties of hot sauce with different levels of heat, chopped garlic & ginger, etc.  It all looked amazing and I felt like we were about to play a really fun game with food….

As we began our adventure, W added the fish/shrimp/pork balls, dumplings, mushrooms, vegetables, tofu and quail eggs to the broth to start them cooking.  He then demonstrated how to combine the condiments in our bowls depending on the flavors and heat level we each preferred.  Some cultures add a beaten egg to the sauce to thicken the consistency a bit.  We proceeded to make our sauces and take our places at our assigned seats where we used the goldfish scoop to remove the cooked food from the broth onto our plates.  The ceramic spoons were used to add some of the broth to our sauce mixture to add flavor and provide the desired consistency.  Using our chopsticks we picked up our chosen morsels, dipped them into our individually concocted sauce and popped it into the mouth.  It was absolutely delicious!!!  The thinly sliced raw meat is not added to the broth.  Instead it is placed into the small mesh scoop which is then held in the broth for a short amount of time for the meat to cook and then eaten by dipping in the sauce.

Completely filled with happiness we moved onto dessert and more wine.  It was an evening I will not likely forget anytime soon.  A big thank you to my hosts!!!

One of the things I find most fortunate about my life is that I have friends from many different cultures and nationalities.  This has allowed me, over the years, to gain exciting experiences that others may not.  Some think I’m crazy because I will talk to strangers while traveling and later stay in touch and become friends with them.  But I can’t imagine all the experiences I would have missed out on had I just played the quiet, confused tourist.  So I encourage you to have your own food experiences through friends of different cultures while you share yours with them.  If nothing else, it is tasty and lots of fun and most certainly capable of curing the post hurricane blues!!!
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