If there’s one thing Sparks and his family all loooove, it’s finding a good deal. Garage sales, estate sales, junk shops, and Goodwill–these are their favorite weekend hobbies. And so it didn’t surprise me one bit when Sparks took off–with nary a word or whisper–to investigate the garage sale down the street this weekend. It turned out to be a particularly interesting one: the neighbors are packing up and going back to China, so were selling off all kinds of things at crazy everything-must-go prices. Sparks scored an electric hotpot for $8. Last night, we got around to using it.
Being dumb Americans, we are free not only to eat this traditional winter dish in the middle of the summer, but to prepare it in any odd ways we like. In the interests of getting full enjoyment from the experience, though, Sparks consulted the internet and I consulted my old buddy Bryan, who is not only Chinese-American and not only a food lover, but was raised in a food-loving, restaurant-owning family. Bryan knows everything about this stuff.
In the end, we decided to have thin-sliced beef and nice big shrimp for the protein. We cooked up some rice noodles we had in the pantry. The dipping sauces are three that happened to be in the fridge already (soy with some sesame oil and Mirin, hoisin, and teriyaki) plus the satay sauce that Bryan had recommended.
For vegetables, we had one huge plate of napa cabbage plus green onions and ginger (for the broth), watercress, mushrooms, and extra-firm tofu.
Are there any readers who can tell me what the labels for 170, 200, and 230 say? Neither of us reads this alphabet or speaks this language… and if there *was* an English translation on the web, I have faith that Sparks would have found it.
Anyway: this little Mitsubish unit is a two-quart cutie that heated the broth to a rolling boil in 10-15 minutes. Sparks has also, incidentally, made an omelette in there. He got so excited, he gave away his large saute pan, not anticipating any further use for it.
Now, seriously. A bunch of lean protein and vegetables, boiled in seasoned broth, on top of noodles? Who wouldn’t want that? We’re thinking of instituting Mondays as Hotpot Days in the Parks household. With the addition of yummy sugar-laden storebought sauces, this is a meal to make anyone happy.
You don’t need a fancy Mitsubishi like ours to have hotpot. Bryan recommends heating the broth in a large pot on top of a camp stove, and I agree that for any larger amount of people, that would probably be a Good Thing.
This weekend, Sparks and I are plotting to hit the Chinese groceries in search of two more items Bryan recommended: beef meatballs and fish “barbecue” sauce. Yum yum yum.