Hot pot, huo guo (fire pot), shabu shabu, all different ways to say fondue, but with broth. Fun and delicious! The Fisherman was less than enthused when some friends of his invited us out for hot pot. “I don’t get it,” he said, “It’s just boiling food.” His friend B’s reply: “Right, and grilling is just putting meat on fire.” Touché, B. I never had hot pot before so I wanted to see what the fuss was about.
So, the 101 on hot pot:
Basically you start off with a hot pot of bubbling broth (or two, usually a not spicy and a spicy broth). Then, you add many, many culinary accessories like veggies, meat, seafood, various fishballs/balls of tastiness (that sounds inappropriate…)
Everything is small/flat to make cooking quick. The stuff you put then is then fished out (or, in the case with Minni’s, each person has a bowl of broth). Your cooked food is then cooled off in a small bowl of raw egg and/or various sauces.
It’s interactive, it’s fun, and it’s great on a really cold day (which we haven’t had much of lately in NYC.
According to The Fisherman, some Chinese families will blast the air conditioning in the summer just for hot pot. Something to consider).
I wanted to do a comparison, first of hot pot in a restaurant (in this case Minni’s), and then one we had at home at the Fisherman’s house. TL; DR, if you know someone who does hot pot, or want to be brave and venture to an Asian market, do it at home. Save lots of money for lots of booze, or tasty things to put in the broth. For what you spend for one person, you can feed four or more people. But, like anything else, do it once in a restaurant for the experience.
So, onto Minni’s.
First, the fun adjuster for your pot. OOOO SHINY! I mean, it’s good to keep an eye on it and adjust as necessary, yes. And it’s in Japanese, but I think you get the gist of how it works. Left makes it cooler, hot cranks it up. Food and entertainment, what more could you ask for?
Bubble bubble, toil and trouble, fire (heater) burn and cauldron bubble, mwahahahahaha!
Next we each get a bed of interesting veggies. I don’t understand why the cabbage was in big honking pieces. Sure cabbage cooks down, but still, I needed to gnaw on mine to get it into manageable pieces. I’m also Italian, and therefore have a big mouth and even I needed help! I don’t understand the corn or tomato, I’d avoid the tomato next time, it wasn’t very tasty cooked.
The various fish balls were tasty, the egg was hard to handle given its size and texture. The tofu too basically fell apart, good times. There was also a potato type thing that was interesting…
Ah, the dipping sauces. I made one spicy, with chili oil and scallions, and one with this AMAZING peanut sauce, and chili oil. Some like it hot :)
Then, the glorious meat, shaved super thin for quick cooking. Beef and lamb are standard. You can try chicken, but when you can choose beef or lamb, why would you?
We also got a seafood plate, I thought it was okay, but I find when I’m the one cooking my shrimp it never comes out tasting right, but that’s just me.
Apparently it’s weird that I LOVE raw seafood, but I’m not too familiar with it cooked. That’s how I roll.
And, the bubbling of the tastiness as my food cooks.
Honestly, it was a fun time, but The Fisherman and I agree that the broth was very, very mild (like hot dirty water), and for each plate of meat/veg, etc., it could add up really quickly. It was a fun experience, I highly recommend trying it once, then continue doing hot pot, the home edition.
Until next time, mangia!