27 January 2009

Huo Guo

For our New Year's Day dinner, we decided to have huo guo, or hot pot, which is originally a cuisine from Mongolia or Sichuan. Basically, there is an electric burner in the middle of the table on which is a shallow pot of boiling water, which you add flavorings like garlic, boullion, ginger, and herbs to. In Sichuan hot pot, the water is red and oily from all the la jiao, or red pepper. This version is so hot that I can't handle it so I opt for the Mongolian version which is more like a soup base.

Today, hot pot restaurants are common across China. It became a food craze a few years ago. If you can't read Chinese like me, two things indicate if a restaurant serves it: one, the sign outside shows a pastoral scene with lambs; two, the windows are coated in steam.

Part of the experience of hot pot is the process. It's pretty much cook-your-own food. Once the "broth" is boiling and flavorful, you start adding the fresh ingredients. For our meal we had spinach, napa cabbage, potatoes, mushrooms, lamb, and noodles. The lamb comes frozen, sliced thinly enough to cook in about a minute. Other ingredients that people add include tofu, other vegetables, and seafood. First, the vegetables go in the hot pot (get it?), and once they're cooked, you fish them out with your chopsticks and dunk them in your personal bowl of peanut/sesame sauce. I think this is the best part! I know it sounds strange, but all these ingredients taste ten times better slathered in this delicious sauce. I go through many bowls of it.

After you've had your fill of vegetables, then add the meat. When the broth gets back up to boiling, then the meat is ready to eat. Leave it in any longer and it gets tough. After you've devoured everything and the broth is full of flavor, then the noodles go in. Though difficult to take out with chopsticks, once they're in your bowl of peanut sauce, thoroughly coated of course, slurp them up like the Chinese do.

On a side note, my mom once made noodles and peanut sauce for dinner when I was a kid. It's one of the meals that I remember pretty clearly because you physically couldn't eat it. Each bite formed a sticky mass in your mouth and you could barely chew or swallow. I think we all had a good laugh about it! It sticks in my mind because usually my mom is a very good cook, so a culinary failure is pretty rare. This was one of them though. Love ya, mom!


  1. I think Lizzard in your special sauce and broth would be excellent!!!!!!
    Love, Hannah and Zachie

  2. Hahaha! That cracked me up...mom's infamous peanut pasta dinner!