Face Changing, World Changing

‘Tis the season for hot pot, as I indulged in it again this past weekend. Every hot pot adventure is unique, especially depending on who’s doing the ordering. Last time, the star of the show was “hĕn là niúròu”, i.e.: demon beef. (The culinary odd ball was Spam.) This go-round, my favorite was a purple goop unrecognizable as the shrimp it claimed to be, but which became–through sorcery, I’m sure–absolutely delicious after a simmer in hot oil.

Even more unique was the particular hot pot venue we visited. First Lady Michelle Obama actually made a pit-stop here when she sojourned through China a few years back. The restaurant apparently found her visit a good advertising opportunity, as a full list of dishes ordered by the First Family was leaked. Talk about a lack of privacy! Continue reading “Face Changing, World Changing”

A Sichuan Necessity

If ever you find yourself in Sichuan Province, China, hot pot is a must. In 2011, UNESCO named Chengdu (the capital city of Sichuan) a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, so you’re guaranteed to find some good grub, from the ubiquitous gōng bǎo jī dīng (Kung Pao Chicken) to hand-pulled noodles. But hot pot is a truly unique experience, and not just in terms of taste. (My first experience with hot pot actually had our cooking oil catch on fire at the table!)

Essentially fondue with boiling oil, the hot pot ritual begins when you order your choice of meats and veggies, ranging from meatballs and potato to goose intestines and lotus root. Then you dump your selection (raw at this point) into your choice of savory oil and/or spicy oil and let it simmer away.

Half the fun is in trying to dig your dinner back out of the oil once it’s finished cooking, with only the length of your chopsticks between your hand and a third degree burn. Continue reading “A Sichuan Necessity”