Back to What Do People Eat in China! I already posted about Mao’s favorite dish, my new favorite tropical fruit, and the not-so-Chinese-yet-very-common-in-China sushi and sashimi. Let’s add something you might not be so familiar with to the list. Or maybe you are and I just wasn’t aware of this fun dining out opportunity?
What Do People Eat in China? Chinese Hot Pot
On our recent trip to Guangzhou, some Chinese friends of our family there decided to take us out for a treat: Chinese hot pot, also known as the Chinese fondue. I like these types of meals where everybody sits around the table and you spend time preparing your food before you enjoy it together. A little more of an event than just the quick dining-out experience it can sometimes be in the US – even though I have to say that we’ve been able to find some really nice places here in Lubbock where they actually let you take your time to enjoy your meal and the company you’re with before not-so-subtly leaving the bill on the table while you’re still contemplating desert. Bottom line, don’t go out for a Chinese hot pot if you don’t have time.
Remember my post about communicating in China when you don’t speak Chinese? In this restaurant I have no idea how we would have ordered if it wouldn’t have been for our friends. See the menu below? You decide if you want a spicy broth to cook your food in or the non-spicy version and then you take the paper menu and check off all the raw food (fish, meat, vegetables, mushrooms, dumplings, etc. ) you want the waiters to bring out, so you can cook it in your broth pot. Well, I guess the only way for Marco and me to communicate with the waiters would have been via an app that lets you point at different kinds of food and hope they actually have it. Luckily, we were in Chinese-speaking company and they took care of the ordering. They might have even gone a little overboard. There was so much food!
We had one big spicy broth pot and one big non-spicy broth pot for the 8-10 people we were. You can’t really be picky about what else is cooked in your pot since everybody uses it. If you are vegetarian and the rest of the table isn’t, you might have to turn a blind eye or two because everybody else will be boiling their meat. If you don’t like fish and the rest of the table does, ignore the fact that little pieces will be floating in the broth very quickly. The first time I ever tried a Chinese hot pot, somebody ordered brain and it grossed me out to no end. Luckily it arrived toward the end of the meal, because after I saw somebody dunk pieces of brain in, I was done.
So, what delicacies did we have on our table? Everything you can imagine – minus the brain. There were super thinly sliced cuts of beef and lamb that was still partially frozen. There were dumplings filled with vegetables or shrimp. There were jumbo shrimp that were so fresh that they were still moving around a little in their ice bucket despite having been put on a little wooden stick. I know, gross, but… delicious. There were spinach-like leafy greens, cabbage-like vegetables and a lot of different kinds of mushrooms. There were meat balls and fish balls. The plates kept coming and coming and by the time we were done with dinner, I could barely walk anymore because I was so full. Luckily the Chinese aren’t very big on desert, because I had no space left in me for anything.
So, how does it all work? Everybody has a plate, a little bowl, a slotted spoon, a cup, and chop sticks. You also get a little bowl to mix your own dipping sauce in based on a set of spices that gets passed around. There was garlic, spring onion, something very spicy, something less spicy, and a few more options. You mix it with some soy sauce that’s also on the table. That’s where you dip all of our food in after it’s cooked. Our hosts put many of the dishes in the soup to let it cook for a while. So, you can either fish out of the bowl what you like when it’s done with your chop sticks or you can cook whatever you like in your own slotted spoon. I found the non-spicy broth to be a little bland and it worked better with things that had a stronger taste themselves, like the meat balls. Despite the fact that I usually am not great about standing spicy food, I loved the spicy broth. It was perfect for all those dishes that came without spices, like the shrimp, the raw meat, etc. So good! I was told that in some places, people actually drink a cup of broth once everything has been cooked.
Have you ever eaten food from a Chinese hot pot? Did you like it? Would you like to try it if you haven’t already? I can only recommend it, that’s for sure.
This post was submitted to Travel Photo Thursday. Head over there to see more travel pics from around the world.
© 2012, Country Skipper. All rights reserved.