It is embarrassing to admit that I never got to try Chinese Hot Pot (very similar to Japanese Shabu-Shabu) during the three and a half years I lived in Vancouver. I would walk by hot pot restaurants over and over and wonder about their deliciousness from Victoria Drive’s sidewalks, mere steps from my apartment.
It was not until I moved to Toronto that I was invited to try my very first hot pot made not in a restaurant but in a family home completely from scratch!
I was introduced to amaranth greens for the first time. Stunning! You want lots of greens like baby bok choy, spinach if you can not get amaranth, sweet pea greens…
Look at all the mushrooms! The hobbit in me was very happy. That wild dark one at the bottom left is black fungus which, after being hydrated, has amazing texture and is quite surprisingly crunchy.
I sat at the meat-eaters side of the table where there was a plethora of finely sliced meats (chicken, beef, lamb…) and dumplings. What a spread!
The hot pot itself can be completely divided so one side has meat and the other side does not, so vegetarians are not excluded.
The “Secret” Sauce
The part I was not expecting was the secret sauce. You make your own sauce (no problem I thought) but! The base of the sauce? One raw egg. Yup, that is right. You work sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic… into a raw egg with chopsticks.
What you have to know is I am not usually squeamish. I have had raw eggs before but during this time my vertigo was at its worst. Vertigo sets off nausea, my foodie kryptonite. But! I did it. I was most worried about temperature. Having cold raw egg freaked me out but realizing that the super hot food would warm it up made it more palatable and calmed my stomach down. Phew!
Cooking In The Hot Pot
You bring the broth up to a simmer and put the food in and the lid on. Once it starts simmering again, the food is ready to eat.
You use little basket spoons so you minimize the loss of the broth but maximize the foodie jewels that you toss in the sauce and then eat with chopsticks. My sauce took a little bit of tweaking. Normally I would have used fish sauce but with my stomach being queasy I made a very sesame flavoured one with paste and oil but it needed Sriracha to give it heat and extra soy sauce for salt.
This was delicious! Absolutely delicious and a lot of fun. You could only make so much at a time so if you are not paying attention (like me) you might be left waiting until another round is complete for your next bowl. There were many, many delicious bowls.
Hot pot is about taking your time, appreciating the ingredients and the company you keep as you feast on little bowls together. It was truly special and unique, something I will remember always. All that prep was a labour of love and I am so very grateful.
BTW, you can always skip the raw egg if you want to. It is not for everyone and that is totally OK. You should never eat anything you do not want to eat.