Sunday, April 14, 2013


For the past several year, I have had students recruited from Chongqing, China in my public speaking classes, and they often give speeches on where they are from and their culture. In these speeches, mention is often made of Chongqing's spicy Yu cuisine, and its most famous dish, hot pot. In the seventies, when fondue-ing was all the rage, my mother and I often made a meal of a variety of meats cooked in hot oil in the fondue pot, dipped in soy sauce, and eaten with rice and vegetables. Hot pot is the same sort of deal, but guests around the table cook various meats, vegetables, and dumplings in a fiery, bubbling broth, then dunk each piece into a special dipping sauce before eating. Afterwards, you might throw some noodles in the remaining broth and eat the rest as a soup.

I was teasing my students in class recently about having never been invited to share a hot pot with them, and next thing I know, one of the gals brought in this ginormous package of hot pot seasoning mix for me to try. Wasn't that lovely? (She also brought me some green and black tea. "A" in the class for that student! Tee hee.) So tonight for dinner, I thought I'd create my inaugural batch of hot pot. Now my roommate and I enjoy spicy food, and my student recommended using a quarter of the package, but I quite wisely, as it turns out, only used an eighth of the package, and it still cleared out our sinuses and made our eyes tear!

Instead of sitting around the hot pot and dipping individual pieces in ("Ain't nobody got time for that!"), I made it on the stove top, boiling each kind of food--Asian vegetables, pork pot stickers, skirt steak, and shrimp--and then throwing some softened rice noodles in at the end, and garnishing the whole dish with sliced scallions and chopped fresh cilantro. For the dipping sauce, I used soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, mustard, Hoisin sauce, and garlic, just eyeballing the amounts and tasting it until it suited me.

The verdict on hot pot? Fiery but FABULOUS! However, I did not care for the industrial lubricant quality of the pre-fab hot pot seasoning, so next time, I would just fashion my own hot pot mixture, and in doing so, I will be able to take the heat level down to wimpy American standards. ;-)

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