Wednesday, 5 February 2014

H is for Hot Pot

We've got friends coming over for Friday supper and by the time we've got out of the city, it's already quite late so I need to serve up a meal that people can enjoy really quickly.  It's also cold so I want something warming.

So I'm doing Da Been Lo or Chinese hot pot.   This does only work if you have an individual electric or butane ring that can sit in the middle of your (protected) table, as some of the food may take a bit of cooking.*

And it does need a bit of prior preparation to make the raw food appealing, but you can make up the soup base (in fact it's better as the flavours come together) ad chop up the meat/veggies (sealed into bags so they don't dry out) the night before.

I swear by Ching He Huang's spicy hotpot soup base, but if the ingredients list or spice puts you off, then a chicken or veggie stock is fine.  Just cook in some Shiitaki mushrooms to help make it a bit more authentic.

I then put sliced raw ingredients into individual serving dishes and arrange around the hot pot.  Then everyone gets some dipping sauce by their own place setting.  My list typically includes:

  • Oriental mushrooms (Waitrose sell great all-in-one packs)
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Bak Choi (separate the leaves from the stems and chop the stems in half)
  • Spinach
  • Thinly sliced beef steak (part freeze it to be able to slice very thinly)
  • Skewered (raw) king prawns
  • Crispy tofu
  • Lotus root^
  • Beef dumplings^
  • Fish dumplings^
  • Udon noodles

^ bought from the Chinese supermarket or mostly available online.

Bring the soup to the boil, and ask people put in what they want to eat and when it's done, fish it out. Don't overload the soup otherwise everything takes forever to cook.  And have a couple of slotted spoons available so people can fish out their food.  The dumplings are done when they float, the prawns when they're pink.

I generally leave the udon noodles till the end but that's just a Chinese thing about leaving the rice to fill up after the more expensive ingredients have been enjoyed.

* All is not lost if you don't have a ring as you can bring the soup to boil on the hob.  You just need to keep the ingredients to things that will just cook with hot water poured over them (e.g. matchstick carrots, julienned spring onion lengths, vermicelli noodles, wafer thin beef, Enoki mushrooms, shredded Chinese leaf, bean sprouts).

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