Happy Lunar New Year!!! This Dragon year is going to be a blast! I can feel it.
Chinese new year is a big deal. It is the one holiday the Chinese, as a whole, celebrate with vigor. In a way, it’s like the Chinese version of an American Thanksgiving. Family from far and away all merge under one roof to basically feast. This year, I had to take the bus and trudge it up a steep half mile long hill, through the snow to make it for dinner…but that is another story!
This year, I had three new years eve dinners over the course of a weekend. One with family friends, one with just my immediate family, and the true new years eve dinner with my extended family. Food, food and more food!
My parents are not as traditional as their peers. This would explain why we decided to do hot pot for our new years eve dinner. Hot pot is essentially a pot of boiling liquid, which can be a a soup or broth of many different types, placed in the center of a table on top of a butane burner, and everyone cooks various ingredients in the liquid on their own. Think, fondue but instead of cheese, broth, instead of spears, chopsticks, and instead of bread, a fish ball. Every household has their own version. Some might use a spicy broth, some might use a very plain broth. Even the ingredient choices will vary depending on a family’s preferences.
In our house, my mom recently started making a chicken broth as our hot pot base. She learned this on her recent trip to China, and has been doing this ever since. She first starts by boiling a chopped up chicken (whole) with various other ingredients, which I’m not quite so sure are. Once the chicken is done, into the hot pot it goes, and we begin!
First we eat the chicken pieces (before it gets tough), then we start adding what we want.
I personally prefer the watercress, Chinese Broccoli, mushrooms (various types), fish balls (various types) and beef tendon balls. I also love the fish paste (dropped in teaspoon full at a time), fish cake (rectangular and sweet) and tofu (fried and non fried variety). Other times we will also have a rice vermicelli for me, but this time, it was not necessary.
Other stuff available are sliced beef, which is a favorite among the men in the household, and shrimp (with the heads on), which I usually end up peeling for my brother and father.
Boiled food…yum? It really is much more delicious than it sounds. To help boost the flavor aspect, there is a sauce too!
Ever since my mom started with this chicken broth (in the past it was a broth made with turnips and other veggies), she’s been making a ginger scallion mixture to use as our sauce. It’s good, and adds a nice spiciness to what otherwise is pretty bland food. If there was no ginger scallion, then I like to mix together soy sauce, sa-cha sauce (chinese bbq sauce), and a hit of sriracha. Also, another note, hot pot soup base mixes are also available in any Asian market, try a spicy one!
I do enjoy hot pot. It’s a great communal activity that gets everyone together around a table and a great way to warm up and humidify your house on a cold winter’s day.