Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Great Hot Pot Experiment

When I lived in Jingzhou, we got very attached to our local Hot Pot restaurant.  I’d never heard of hot pot before Janice, one of our waiban (Foreign Affairs Office employee whose job it is to deal with foreign teachers), took us there, but after that we hardly went a week without going back.  I’ve talked about hot pot in this post.  

Just before I left China, Jordan, one of my Chinese friends, helped me find some packages mix to make the boiling spicy soup to do hot pot at home; I intended to have a party once I got back to the states for my family and friends to try it.  However, I couldn’t find lotus root, bean sprouts, mahua, rice cakes, or the right kind of mushrooms in my home town (not exactly a world-culture sort of place); I’d have to go to one of the international stores in Nashville.  Every time I was in Nashville, it was too late at night, or I was too busy, and I didn’t want to spend the gas just for that, and you know how it goes…a year and a half later, the mix is still in a bag in my closet, and I’m a week away from going back to China.  It was now or never.  

Mom and I made a trip up to Nashville to a place on Charlotte Pike after work one day; we picked Hayden up on the way.  I figured I might find one or two of the things I wanted, but to my surprise I found all of them quickly.  Saturday night, Doug and Sue came over, and I tried my best to recreate the hot pot restaurant experience.  
We used a fry cooker and an electric skillet to get the soup boiling on the table; Mom and I spent half the morning chopping things to go in it.  We fixed everything I could remember liking in it, just to try it all: potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, lotus root, bean sprouts, mushrooms, rice cakes (not the crunchy kind health nuts like; these are more like little round rubbery pasta), chicken, beef, shrimp, and mahua (twisted crackers).  We completely covered the table, even though it was extended with a leaf.  

I was so afraid that it wouldn’t taste the same, and that we would waste all that food, and that no one would like it even if it did taste right.  I’d waited a year and a half for this, and talked it up for so long—I didn’t want to be disappointed.  Fortunately, the Chinese seem to be quite adept as packaging food in plastic—it was just as I’d remembered it.  Hot enough that I drank two cans of Pepsi during the meal, and with that unique flavor I’ve never found anywhere else.  Mom and Dad and Doug and Sue got into it, and learned quickly to just keep dumping things in.  While I don’t believe it will become their new favorite meal out as it was for me, as Sue said, it was “a meal I won’t forget.” I’m glad I got to share a little bit of my China experience with them.  

For a full slideshow of the pictures, go to my photo blog, Foreverfreebird Fotografia.  


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