Friday, June 11, 2010

Humbled by Hot Pot

I have had hot pot twice before, in the US, with other friends who really don't know what they are doing. Sure we know you wait for the broth to boil, then you cook your food. But I really am not fond of hot pot because it requires too much coordination for someone who barely cooks. Here I have to cook, then eat and cook ... and I actually don't like my food to be that hot when I eat it. Even when I get pizza, half the time the guy behind the counter tells me that it isn't warm enough yet and I say it is okay because they usually warm it so much it burns my mouth.

So why? Why did I go for hot pot? Honestly I am not sure. It could be that I have been eating a variety of food, Thai, American, Italian, Indonesian, Singaporean, even vegetarian so I was feeling as though I should eat something more Cantonese. And the Cantonese do seem to love their soup.

Anyway, because I was alone they seated me at a bar facing a wall. Which was fine but I say this because I couldn't watch the other people for hints on what to do. The staff first had to explain how to order the ingredients. Even with his help I was confused when the food came, did I really order all that? The spices and sauce were lost on me since I couldn't identity what was what--several green options, yellowish option, red option--got that one--hot peppers!

But the fun part came with putting the food into and then taking it out of the pot. I was so uncoordinated that one staff person, bless her, kept coming up to help me especially after I dropped a glob of freshly cooked noodles. And she clearly felt I needed to use the sauce on some things because she did that for me too. I bet they had a good laugh when I left and I don't blame them, I found it comical and was laughing at myself throughout the experience. I think I actually did better the previous two times, I really was at my most uncoordinated last night.

In the process it was necessary to use an extra plate and an extra set of utensils, and I left a really big mess because I dropped soup and food several times. Luckily no one sat on either side of me, so no one else suffered because of me.

I did enjoy the food and the experience, despite feeling somewhat humbled by it. But I think there is plenty of other things in the Cantonese cuisine that I am better suited for.


  1. I am not a fan of hot pot in HK. It's not the type of thing to get alone and the only pleasure I had from the experience was enjoying the noise and commotion and company at the meal.

    The food I had tasted bland because everything ends up so hot that it's almost a chore to eat it.

    And there's too much work involved. Conceptually, I'm a fan but in reality I'd rather have Korean barbecue or something.

  2. Hi Diana --

    I love hot pot but it's not something I'd eat by myself. For one thing, many of the better hot pot restaurants don't have English menus. For another, the more people you eat hot pot -- as with dim sum -- the more kinds of food you can try.

    As for not liking to eat things too hot: well, after you cook the individual pieces of food, you could first put it in your bowl/on your plate and let them cool a bit. In the meantime, you could cook other food. This way, you can eat your bits of food in batches (if you know what I mean) -- an experience I prefer to cooking one piece, eating it, cooking another piece, eating it, repeat, repeat, repeat! ;D

    Still, the next time the urge to eat something Cantonese strikes you, why not go for a plate of roast meat or a bowl of wonton noodles or some such? Those options are made for the single diner.

    Also, have you tried claypot rice (po chai faan) yet? Like with hot pot, it's not the optimal season to eat it right now but since many eateries are air-conditioned these days, that really should not stop you if you are so inclined.

  3. Hi, Glenn, well I guess I had to learn that the hard way. I think you are supposed to spice it up with the condiments they give you to make it more tasty but I am too unfamiliar with those things.

    Hi YTSL, you sound like a connoisseur. That is part of the coordination that I need to learn, pacing the cooking. It must help if there are people there to distract you from eating the food while it is too hot. I did have to put food aside, because there was just too much food at once. But actually the staff threw things in much faster than I would have.

    I agree, not my best choice of Cantonese cuisine to do, it was one of rash decisions that I occasionally make, which was encouraged by the nice lady outside beckoning me in.

    I have had claypot rice in Chinatown, but not here yet. That is really tasty. I have had roast pork at Fairwood and I think I had a Japanese version one day.

  4. That's a good story, Diana! At least you got a laugh out of it. :)

  5. Glad you liked it duriandave.