Hot Pot Lunch In Beijing

2010
07.20

I was treated to a delicious lunch today after morning meetings!  “Hot pot” is a pretty generic term for a group of Asian meal styles.  Wikipedia has more info for you.  The one common component is a pot of boiling liquid at the table, but the composition of the liquid varies widely.  Today we had  Beijing-style hot pot, which has two different broths for cooking.  The one on the left was a beef broth, made by boiling beef bones for many hours.  The right side is filled with a vegetable broth.  Both were very mild.  Notice that both sides have two ladles: one slotted, and one solid.

two-sided hot pot

You’re given a gazillion choices of ingredients to cook in the broth, like: pee beef balls, pig brains (whole), duck tongues, pork intestines, squid testicles, and duck intestines.  Thankfully we had some simpler options…beef and mutton, with mushrooms, potatoes, wheat noodles, potato noodles, and various leafy greens.

Each table has a little multi-level side table where all your ingredients sit till you’re ready to cook them.

mushrooms, greens, potato noodles, & beef

The presentation of the beef was especially impressive!

It's like a beautiful flower made of beef!

The beef was very heavily marbled. Much of this cooked away when the meat is boiled.

After boiling your food till it reaches the desired level of doneness, you dip the food into a sauce that you’ve made yourself.   You build the sauce at what looks an awful lot like a salsa bar.  There are tons of options, from sesame sauce (like tahini) to hot peppers, to various oils, minced garlic and cilantro (yum!), etc.

self service sauce

I used sesamee sauce as a base, and added garlic, cilantro, some hot stuff, and couple dabs of random things that my host said I'd like.

I wish I had a movie to show you of the kid stretching the wheat noodles.  He came to the table with a small puck of dough.  After stretching it a little bit, he started dancing around swinging the elongating piece of dough all over the place.  It looked a lot like a rhythmic gymnast with a ribbon.  Near the end he swings it right at your head, as if he’s going to hit you.  When he’s done, the noodle is easily 10 feet long (sagging nearly to the floor with his arms outstretched).  He folds it a few times, rips it in a couple places, then drops the pieces into your pot.  It’s FAR more entertaining to watch than a pasta roller.  :)

It’s a great meal, and a fun way to eat.  You move through the food more slowly than a traditional American meal, where all your food is served on a plate at once, and you just power through it before everything gets cold.  I’d encourage you to seek-out a hot pot restaurant in your home town.  You’re sure to enjoy it!

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