By Chef Meng
“Hot pot isn’t just hot—It’s spicy and sexy at the same time.”
Many people have asked me the question: what’s your favorite Chinese food? My answer has always been: hot pot! I’m the biggest fan of hot pot. I’ve been to countless hot pot restaurants in China, and I’m continuing to explore the best ones in Boston.
So what is hot pot?
The Chinese hot pot has a history of more than 1,000 years. It is a kind of stew with soup base, sliced meat, vegetables and seafood. While the hot pot is kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table. The dipping sauce is one of the most important factors for me to enjoy a hot pot meal. It is usually sesame paste or mixed with peanut sauce.
Let me first share with you the common types of hot pots I’ve seen:
- The Most Traditional Hot Pot
- The Yin Yang Hot Pot
- The Individual Small Hot Pot
- The 3-by-3 Grid Hot Pot
- Chef Meng’s Hot Pot
The most common “hot pot situation” is that everyone sits around the table with the hot pot in the middle, and everyone shares the food in one pot. Public chopsticks are usually provided to serve food. But in most cases, we don’t care that much!
For this type of hot pot, burnt charcoal is added in the middle so that it can heat up the soup in the pot. There is a famous Chinese hot pot chain restaurant named “Dong Lai Shun” that uses this type of pots.
This type of hot pot resembles the Chinese Yin & Yang symbol. Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary (rather than opposing) forces in the natural world. They give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. The “yin” side of a hot pot is usually a light soup base, while the “yang” side of it is usually spicy. The light soup and the spicy soup are complimentary and make a perfect match!
This type of small hot pot is gaining more popularity in China as well as in the Western countries. It allows each guest to enjoy his/her own hot pot without having to share with others. In other words,you don’t have to mess with the others!
This is the more advanced version of hot pot I’ve seen. Different grid has different temperatures so you can decide what type of food goes into which grid. Sounds complicated, but it’s real science. The middle grid has the highest temperature, so you can put something that’s easy to cook. The surrounding ones have lower temperature, so sliced meet is a good choice for these sections. The ones in the corner have the lowest temperature. Therefore, you can put something that takes a long time to cook.
Although I don’t have fancy pots, my hot pot can still make my day. Here’s how I cooked my hot pot at home:
I put everything I like to eat in a single pot: beef, bok choy, mushrooms, rice noodles, potatoes, tofu, seaweed, corn, fish meet balls, and many more buried underneath that you cannot see.
Here’s a vegetarian version: the leaf veggie is called crowndaisy chrysanthemum. Seriously, that’s the longest word of a vegetable that I know.
The essential: sesame sauce
I don’t even know the ingredients. I buy them from the Chinese supermarkets. But remember, this is ESSENTIAL.
Hot pot is my biggest comfort for me to survive the winter here in Boston. My favorite hot pot restaurant in Boston is called the Little Lamb (near MGH station).
(Photo credit: Kerryn)
The best Little Lamb hot pot dinner with my favorite people from COM. Apparently, we ordered too much but we couldn’t help it! I’m going this weekend, anyone?
This was originally posted at Chef Meng’s blog.