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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hot Pot Celebration

Well this is my birthday meal!! It has been such since moving to Calgary. Mainly because after cooking for all the fall birthdays of my family, I would rather stay at home then go out for a birthday meal and frankly I do not want to cook for myself, so this became the perfect solution.  Secretly I feel slighted as my birthday fall on a feast day of great importance when we were on the old calendar (Jan 18th).  My grandmother Anna would prepare the twelve meatless dishes for this “vechera”.  All of her children and their children would drive from all parts of Manitoba to be part of celebration some called Little Christmas or Schedrij Vechir.  My birthday was never the focus when everyone was there, in fact I don’t ever remember it even being mentioned.  But when we began to celebrate Christmas on the new calendar, I truly missed this family celebration at my grandparents’ home. 

I must add that after Sean worked in Japanese restaurant in Canmore, Alberta while training at the Nordic centre, he had no tolerance for the slow, leisurely place of the Hot Pot and ended up throwing everything in at the same time! In my Hot Pot, I prefer pork, chicken, shrimp and scallops and lots of vegetables.  

Hot Pot is believed to have originated over 1000 years ago and spread to Northern China during the Tang Dynasty.  Hot Pot consists of a metal pot filled with a broth which is placed in the centre of the table and kept simmering over a heat source. A variety of meats, seafood and vegetables which have been chopped and prepared for quick cooking are cooked in the broth at a leisurely pace at the table..  Noodles, dumplings and wontons can also be added to the broth.  The cooked food is dipped into dipping sauce for extra flavour. 

In most areas, a hot pot meal is often eaten in the winter and thus has become a ideal Birthday meal for me!

Yesterday, Bill and I went driving to Forest Lawn to see if I could find a Mongolian pot for the celebration.  Hong Kong Market did not have any Mongolian Pots.  They did have a Hot Pot that was called Lovers Hot Pot, and I not too sure why it is called that!  It is a shallow stainless steel pot with a separation in the middle.  In other words two separate compartments. We did not buy this as the handles were rough to the touch.

What we found at Pacific Fish Mall is a similar stainless steel pot but with a separate centerpiece.  

          The combinations are endless for a Hot Pot!  Last night, Sora and Jonathan brought lamb thinly sliced, meatballs, enoki mushrooms, baby bok choy and noodles along with chicken broth as the base.  I had bought long beans and fresh basil at Hong Kong Market and I also added shrimp.  Sora set out small bowls of soya sauce for dipping the cooking meat.

The following the recipe posted on BBC wed site has good ideas for a spicy and seasoned soup base for all the vegetables and meat. 

Make sure you have separate utensils for your guests to use to transfer the raw ingredients into the stockpot, and clean utensils for eating - this reduces the chance of cross contamination from the raw ingredients and your guests' serving plates.


For the spicy soup stock base
2 tbsp groundnut oil
3-4 long dried Sichuan chillies or long dried chillies
50g/2oz whole Sichuan peppercorns
1 tbsp chilli bean sauce (available from Asian grocers)
1 tbsp chilli sauce
1.7 litres/3 pints hot vegetable stock
2 whole star anise
6 dried Chinese mushrooms
1 small handful dried tangerine peel (available from Asian grocers, or subtitute with the zest of 1 orange)
1 large spring onion, roughly chopped
250ml/9fl oz chilli oil
2.5cm/1in piece fresh root ginger, peeled
2 red chillies, de-seeded, sliced
250g/9oz ready-made fish balls (available from Asian grocers) (optional)
1 small handful Chinese cabbage, thickly sliced
1 small handful deep-fried tofu
1 small handful fresh tofu, cut into 2.5cm/1in chunks

For the vinegar, chilli and soy dipping sauce
3 tbsp Chinkiang black rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp light soy sauce
1 red chilli, de-seeded, finely chopped

For the Taiwanese dipping sauce
1 free-range egg, yolk only
1 tbsp oriental satay or barbecue sauce (available from Asian grocers)
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander
1 tbsp finely sliced spring onion

To serve
lamb fillet, thinly sliced raw prawns, shelled and de-veined firm tofu, cut into chunks enoki mushrooms, baby sweet corn, sliced 250g/9oz ready-made fishcakes (available from Asian grocers)


1. For the spicy soup base, heat a 2 litre/3½ pint capacity wok until smoking and add the groundnut oil. Add the chillies and Sichuan peppercorns and stir fry for a few seconds, or until fragrant.
2. Stir in the chilli bean sauce and chilli sauce and then pour in the vegetable stock. Add the star anise, Chinese mushrooms, tangerine peel, spring onion, ginger and chillies and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Ten minutes before serving, add the chilli oil, the sliced Chinese cabbage, deep-fried tofu, fresh tofu and fish balls, if using.
4. For the vinegar, chilli and soy dipping sauce combine all the dipping sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and set to one side.
5. For the Taiwanese dipping sauce, combine all of the dipping sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and set to one side.
6. To serve, arrange the lamb, prawns, tofu, mushrooms and fishcakes on separate plates. Transfer the soup base to an electric wok or fondue and set it up in the centre of the table. Let guests help themselves and cook the ingredients in the spicy broth. Serve with the dipping sauces.

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