The act of sticking various food items into a simmering pot goes by many names and comes in different variations, whether it’s “hot pot”, “steamboat”, “shabu shabu”, “sukiyaki”, “lau” or “chinese fondue”.
At home, our hotpot of choice is the Sichuan kind. Undisputedly the king of all hotpots, every mouthful is coated with tongue tingling oil, bits of chilli and hidden sichuan peppers, waiting to unleash its face numbing super powers.
I like to fry the flavour packet in a bit of oil first to unleash the peppery smells into our apartment. Ms. Taste likes the non-chilli side of the pot with pickled chinese mustard greens, chicken stock and coriander. Once things get hot and simmering, we bring the pot over to the portable gas stove on our dining table.
While the thai style “sukiyaki” and the vietnamese “lau” have a strong emphasis on the freshest of ingredients, our hotpot is the total opposite. We usually buy a tray of frozen lamb for each person, accompanied with half a frozen basa fillet per person and a pack of frozen fish tofu cubes, lobster balls and other assorted sea creatures.
For vegetables, we have plenty of baby bok choy, enoki mushrooms and some daikon. Soak some of these babies in the chilli oil and prepare for fun. Quail eggs are also a nice addition. But really, you could add whatever random things you have in your freezer/fridge/pantry.
Throw your food into the pot, not too much otherwise it takes longer to cook, but enough to just get you started. You want to get into the rhythm of fishing out cooked goodies and adding them to your bowl whilst simultaneously eating and adding more food into the pot. It’s all a delicate dance that everyone needs to perform in sync. Otherwise you will have everyone sitting idly and watching the pot, waiting for food to cook, followed by frenzied grabbing for the sexiest pieces, followed by waiting and more waiting.
For us, there’s no better way of spending winter at home than in front of simmering pot of chilli-soaked goodness.