Some of you may remember James from a post I did some weeks back. Last night, he invited me to go to Boston with him for a traditional hot-pot dinner. James grew up eating hot-pot and I’ve heard him talking about it since we met two years ago. I have to say that as someone who has always eaten American-ized Chinese food, I was excited about this outing.
Hot-pot is much like fondue. You have a pot filled with broth in which you cook various foods that you order. First you have to select the broth. James comes from a region of China that favors spicy foods, so we had a bowl divided with a spicy, red Szechuan broth and a tame yet flavorful mushroom broth. You can see the bowl and James in the main image. The bowl is placed on a heating element built into the table and heated to boiling. Next, each of us was provided with a small bowl of soy sauce. The little white containers you see are filled with flavorings to mix into your soy sauce. We added four: garlic, green onion, salty fish paste, and spicy red paste. As the broths cooked, the waiter brought us the food we ordered to go in the pot: thinly slice beef and lamb (pictured with the rice), broccoli, potatoes, mushrooms, Chinese yams, tofu skins (which looked like noodles), noodles and quail eggs.
James expertly cooked each in turn and served them. We dipped them in our soy sauce and then ate them. Oh, if you ever do this with quail eggs, let them cool a bit before eating them (ouch). Everything was really tasty. The spicy broth and sauce was spicy. I slowed down on the spice about half way through the meal. Also, I had ordered the white rice and used it to counter the spice when my mouth became too hot.
This was really a unique experience and not something that I would have been likely to try without someone who knew that they were doing. The reality is that is was not that difficult. The food was good and the process made it fun. It was also really healthy. We left there full, but there was no oil or frying involved and the only sauce was the soy sauce. Everything came to the table really fresh with little processing. I thanked James profusely for this rare opportunity, and I was proud when he gave my chopstick skills and A+.