So the first 5 days of the Chinese new year celebration have officially finished. Now, until the15th of January in Chinese calendar, people’s greetings are changing from ‘Happy new year’ to ‘how was your new year?’ Or for some people still haven’t wished the ‘happy new year’ yet, they would say ‘happy belated new year’. What I am saying is that the new year spirit is not fading away yet:))
But let’s talk about food — Chinese hot-pot from the previous post.
Chinese hot-pot is almost a signature dish in Chinese cuisine, it is especially suitable for friends or family gathering. In Chinese we always use ‘re nao’ to describe this kind of occasions, it literally means ‘hot and noisy’, so you can imagine the hot steam going up from the middle of the table, and everyone is chatting over the hot pot while busy ‘cooking’ their own food.
Once, we invited a friend over for ‘hot-pot’, who is a big fan of my food, (I am so honored). But when he heard it was going to be ‘hot-pot’, he said, ‘but you are not actually cooking?!’ Ha… I laughed, it is true, I only just prepare, then everyone would ‘cook’ on their own. But having ‘hot-pot’ is not only about different way of eating and cooking, also about the unique atmosphere. Oh, in the end, I did cook dishes instead — I just cannot resist his praise. Ha…
How to prepare hot-pot? — It is easy, at the same time, complicated.
Start from the soup base. Traditionally, it can be meat-based, seafood-based, or just clear water base. Nowadays, the most famous one is probably the ‘Sichuan’ spicy soup base — but only if you do like spicy food. Since nowadays there is a trend in China for ‘healthy’ (or ‘healing’) food, ‘healthy’ soup base has also become trendy; for example, there is a soup base involving different kinds of mushrooms (those in Chinese medicine are considered having very good medical properties). In some restaurants, or in some shops in China, you can even get the ‘pot’ with a divider in the middle, so you can have two different soup bases at the same time. In Chinese it is called ‘Yuan Yang guo’ — ‘Mandarin duck’ pot. :))
The easiest of way of making soup base for homemade hot-pot is to buy ready-to-use soup base. :)) You just need to boil it with water to make a perfect soup base, and they are quite tasty already, you don’t need to do anything else. But sometimes, I am lazy to go out to buy, and my husband often complains about the ‘oily’ and ‘fat’ in those ready-to-use packages, so I started making the simple soup base at home, as what my dad used to prepare, or people in the past used to prepare.
Here is how I simply made it. I normally prefer to make it seafood soup base with a little bit spiciness, but you can swap the seafood for meat, or leave out the seafood and meat, just have plain one.
Oil, sichuan pepper corn, anise start, bay leaves, sea kelp, prawns (it is better with shell), crab legs (with shell), fish, salt, goji berries, dried chili pepper, ginger, scallion, coriander (optional).
1) Sit the sauce pan (pot) that you are going to use for making ‘hot-pot’ over the fire, add in around 4-5 tablespoons of oil.
2) When the oil is hot, add in a small handful of sichuan pepper corns, a few dried chili peppers (depend on how hot you prefer), and a few anise stars.
3) Until the smell of the three ingredients rise up from the sauce pan (don’t get burnt), pour in hot water, covering more than half of the sauce pan. (You can remove the sichuan pepper corn, chili pepper and anise stars first before adding water, if you like).
4) When the water in boiling, add in couple of bay leaves, a few leaves of well soaked sea kelp, and say around 5-7 prawns with shell, a few crab legs with shell (if you cannot find it, it can be skipped), a few small pieces of boneless white fish, a small handful goij berries, a few sliced ginger, and 1 tablespoon of salt. If you like meat, you can leave a small chunk of beef or lamb in the soup base to boil as well.
5) Keep the fire low, boiling for around 45 minutes or more, allow all the ingredients well influence the soup.
—- It is ready to be used for hot pot now.
(To be continued)