Citizens, ’tis the dead of Winter and thus the time for hotpot is at hand! Hot pot (also known as steamboat in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, China and Brunei), refers to several Asian varieties of stew, consisting of a simmering metal pot of stock at the center of the dining table. You’ll need a hotpot to make this, of course – you can buy a fine one from Amazon here. It will prove useful for many other hotpot-type dishes and even fondue, if necessary!
While the hot pot is kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table. Typical hot pot dishes include thinly sliced meat, leaf vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, egg dumplings, and seafood. The cooked food is usually eaten with a dipping sauce. Hot pot meals are usually eaten in the winter during supper time.
Of all the varietals on this family tree of savor, perhaps my favorite is the spicy-hot Sichuan version, especially as served in the provincial city of Chongqing, the chili-head capital of this province of spice fanatics!
The Chongqing má là (Chinese: 麻辣 – “numb and spicy”) hot pot, is one to which a rather enormous amount of numbing Sichuan pepper (Chinese: 花椒 huā jiāo “flower pepper”; also known as “prickly ash”) has been added.
A Chongqing hotpot is markedly different from the types eaten in other parts of China. Quite often the differences lie in the meats used, the type of soup base, and the sauces and condiments used to flavor the meat. Má là huǒ guō could be used to distinguish from simply huǒ guō in cases when people refer to the “Northern Style Hot Pot” in China.
Hotpot as a recipe-type was created during the Shang (16th century-11th century BC) and Zhou (11th century-256 BC) dynasties. Chongqing hotpot appeared later, approximately in the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Sichuan writer Li Jieren claims Sichuan hot pot originated in Chongqing.
Ironically, a key feature of my interpretation of this Sichuanese dish actually uses an ingredient from Fujian province. TFD is very fond of Fujian glutinous rice wine (福建糯米酒), which is made by adding a long list of expensive Chinese medicinal herbs to glutinous rice and a low alcohol distilled rice wine.
The unique brewing technique uses another wine as raw material, instead of starting with water. The wine has an orange-red color and has an alcohol content by volume of 18%. This adds yet another layer of medicinal herbs and flavor to the soup, and while optional is highly recommended! 😀
Yes, I know there are tons of ingredients in this recipe, plus various condiments. Don’t panic – once you make the soupbase, this is actually pretty easy since the ingredients are raw and cooked by each guest! 😉 , you seek only the finest recipes as they are PROPERLY made, and that is exactly what your beloved TFD provides to you! Shortcuts and compromise do not exist in my (or our!) vocabulary!
Also, I have conveniently given you the Chinese characters for most of the more unusual ingredients – just print out the recipe, show the list to your local Chinese grocer and/or herbalist store and they will hook you up! 🙂 Lastly, you do not by any means need to make or use all of these ingredients or condiments.
A final word of caution: since the food is cooked in boiling broth, you should **never** eat the cooked ingredient right out of the pot. To avoid a nasty mouth burn, you should always let the food sit in your bowl until the temperature has lowered. Enjoy with a tasty Sichuanese appetizer such as this.
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
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