Happy 2010! Although it is 2010, I will continue to blog about 2009. There is so much to cover! First off, Christmas. As many of you are aware, I am the special kind of person who gets to tick the box labeled "Asian/Asian-American/Pacific Islander" on my SATs if I so choose. Of course, I definitely took the opportunity to let The Man know my race to throw a wrench in those national statistics. YES, that's right. My verbal WAS higher than my math score. Take that, Asian stereotype and the College Board.
My family does not celebrate Christmas in the sense of throwing a party for baby Jesus. Mostly we celebrate Christmas by taking advantage of the holiday time off work and the funness of buying presents–of the technological sort of course. You can lead my dad to cheap subpar electronics, but you can't make him buy them, so the saying goes.
Christmas Eve is usually when we open all our presents to each other from my immediate family. Then Christmas day we pack up the car, go shopping in Chinatown on our way to visit all my cousins, aunt and uncle, and most recently, my cousin's kids. In Christmases past, we have had large home-cooked Chinese meals. We have also eaten out (Chinese food and one year, sushi). This year, we had HOT POT.
You guys. I LOVE hotpot. Ever since I was a kid I always thought this kind of meal was super fun. Sometimes, this is called Mongolian hot pot or steamboat or Chinese fondue, etc. (Japanese people have a version called Shabu shabu.) But you get the idea. Basically you have boiling water or some kind of broth, chicken broth, spicy broth, beef broth, seafood broth, etc. You have lots of raw meat, fish, vegetables, tofu and noodles that you cook in the broth and eat. Usually the cooked food is dipped into a delicious sauce made from sa cha sauce (essentially Chinese BBQ sauce), raw egg, chili paste and soy sauce.
That's right! RAW EGG. Many of you may be grossed out by this entire endeavor, but it is SO DELICIOUS. And all the food is served raw and fresh, then it's boiled, dipped in raw egg, mixed with chili paste and eaten. This is how we roll, people! We put the raw food right on the table! We Chinese, we're just flying by the seat of our pants here. Do you have allergies and intolerances? Too bad! Are you vegan or vegetarian? Well, get lost! Do you hate spicy foods? Loser! We have no room for you here in our culture of animal killing, spicy sauce making, raw meat and raw egg serving customs. But all is not lost because hot pot is a very low carb meal. You're welcome, Atkins dieters. The meal is pretty simple, with most of work in the preparation of all the ingredients. Of course to cook everything thoroughly, the meats are all sliced very thinly.
You have little golden net spoon/ladles that you fill with raw beef, chicken etc. This is then lowered into the boiling broth. It only takes about 1-2 minutes to cook the very thin (less than 1/4 inch thick) meat and a similar short time to cook seafood. You then pull out your ladle, dip the piping hot meat into the sa cha sauce and eat! Mmmmm. And then, at the end, SURPRISE! You have made a delicious soup! And we add lots of veggies and noodles to it to make it extra delicious.
There are a few restaurants that serve hot pot, mostly in big cities due to the larger Asian populations. But if you don't live in a big city, hot pot is really easy to prepare if you can buy fresh food and operate a knife and the dinner itself is super fun and social–much like cheese fondue. You can serve a lot of people without having to worry about basting the turkey or burning the green bean casserole. All you need is a pot and a good single burner tabletop range which are all mostly in the $30 level of appliances. The items that you decide to serve are totally up to you. If you don't like seafood, you don't have to have it. And if you don't like chicken or spiciness, then get rid of that too and sub in something that you do like. The possibilities are endless. HOTPOT! Do it.