The smells of the bananas and apples cooking in the pan along with the hot pot base was magnifacent, and the display of food on the table ready to be cooked within the boiling concoction was a sight to behold. Lamb, lettuce, mushrooms, potatoes, yams, krab (with a k), cuttlefish balls, and so much more was ready to be tasted and tried for my American palate.
In a classic American fashion, I ate until I could eat no more, then continued eating and eating, eventually excusing myself from the table and the room because I needed to get away from it all. I needed to leave the entire kitchen because I would have continued eating until I died, as a goose when you fatten it for Foie Gras.
The only thing that dwarfed the experience of the flavors and smells was the comradery. The sheer amount of fun the friends were having together. As much the food enchanted me, the friendship and open way everyone ate and spoke (often in a dialect of Chinese I do not understand*) was just the purest amount of fun I could think of. It combined two of my favorite things, cooking and people (note: We did not COOK PEOPLE).
I fell in love with that meal that day, and perhaps it was just my experience with wonderful hot pot chef and her friends that made it such, but I was determined to make myself a Hot Pot when I got home!
Fastforward a year or so later and I still had not made one.
I decided it was time. I set out, ordered 5 Hot Pot soup bases from the Amazon, and set to gathering my ingredients.
Hot Pot, as best I can describe it, is a mix between a fondue and a soup. It is a boiling soup in the middle of the table where you and your guests toss raw foods in to be boiled and cooked. Once cooked, the foods are fished out using chopsticks and placed within a dipping sauce, of varying spice and flavor, and are subsequently consumed.
It was surprisingly easy to find most of the ingredients. April's note to me on her recipe(both in Chinese and English) stated the heart and soul of Chinese cooking was the Salad Onion, Garlic, and Ginger. I just so happened to have those things at home, so it was a simple task of rounding up the rest. The hardest bit was the Cuttlefish Balls and the Lamb, but it was all sorted in the end.
Cooking took a very short amount of time, but the preparation and display of the foods you were to cook took a bit. In the end, I believe I created a proper hot pot. It tasted, from what I recal, similar to the Hot Pot April had created for me, and I shared it with my family members.
Now a self proclaimed master, my Hot Pot skills have surpassed the greatest in history (to my knowledge) and I am ready to unleash my skills on a home near you!
For that meal, that memory, and the knowledge that she imparted on me so that I may make more of my own memories and meals, I must give a shout out to my friend April!
April, thanks a bunch. I hope this finds you well, Camera in one hand, law degree in the other!
*It should be noted that I understand no dialects of Chinese.