It seems these posts about hot-pot are taking me quite a long time, just like actually eating it. :)) Here you go, another continued post, this time it is about what to ‘cook’ (or ‘rinse’/shuan) in the pot.
In general, most kinds of meat, seafood, and vegetables that do not require long cooking times can be used for hot-pot. Normally, one can easily have eight or nine big plates on the table full of fresh ingredients ready to cook in the pot — surprised? :)) Let’s see — these include sliced meat, fish and seafood, tofu, green leaves, fensi, mushrooms — but you have to remember that we can have different kinds of each of these, so we can end up having at least 2 or 3 plates per ingredient. Here you can have choices, for example, if you are vegetarian, you can leave out the meat and seafood.
Now, let’s talk about them one by one. (It is only what we normally have for hot-pot, not including Cantonese style hot-pot.)
As I said before, Chinese hot-pot is also called ‘rinse lamb’ (at least in Northern China), so you can imagine, lamb is the first ‘must have’.
Lamb used for hot-pot needs to be a little bit ‘fatty’, served in very very thin slices, so that it can be cooked quickly. Many Chinese supermarkets nowadays start selling lamb specifically for hot-pot, but you can also prepare it at home. The best way for making the slices really thin is to freeze the lamb first, before it gets very frozen/hard, or leave it outside a little bit after frozen, then chop the lamb into as thin slices as you can. I remember in the past, my dad and many other people used a small planer to make it super thin.
(in this plate, left is lamb, right is beef)
Having beef in hot-pot only became popular in the past 15 years, especially since China started importing New Zealand beef, which we call ‘little fat beef’. Again, it is better to have a little bit fat on each piece, and it needs to be sliced very thin.
Fish and seafood:
In traditional hot-pot, fish is not normally served, probably it is simply because in China, fish is commonly sold as a whole, you rarely find it boneless. So I started having fish in the hot-pot only since I came to England. Any white fish is good.
Fish and seafood balls:
Although fish is not very common in traditional hot-pot, fish balls and different seafood balls, for example, prawn mince balls, became very popular in recently years. They normally come in two types, one is fried, another one is non-fried. The fried ones are certainly more tasty, :)) but the non-fried ones are much healthier.
Many kinds of seafood, especially shell seafood, are good for preparing the soup; however, when it comes to having them for hot-pot, it all depends. Prawns are traditionally served for hot-pot: not only they are easy to cook, but they also bring very fresh taste for the soup. I also like to have squids in the hot-pot. Other than that, many restaurants in China also serve fresh small lobster, they are also very good. I also like seafood that has been prepared without shells already, makes it easy to boil.
Fish and seafood smooth:
This is a new thing in China, well, probably not that ‘new’, but only because I have been away for so long. Every time I go back home, my parents and friends would introduce me some ‘new’ trendy food.
This fish and seafood ‘smooth’ is one of them. It is originally called “Hua”, as something smooth (Yu Hua is made from fish, Xia Hua is made from prawns, ‘Niu Rou Hua’ is made from beef.) It is to make the fish or prawns (or beef) into mince, then into a very soft and ‘smooth’ paste, served ‘flat’ on a rectangle plate. When having hot-pot, use knife to cut a small portion, carefully ‘push’ it into the hot-pot, let it boil for a very short while. It becomes a ‘strip’ shape, and ‘firm’, easy to be picked up.
Tofu is one of another ‘must-have’ for hot-pot. However, fresh tofu is not an ideal choice. The following kinds of tofu are more suitable for hot pot.
— I hope the translation is right. I have talked about it in a previous post. In Chinese, it is called ‘Doufu Pao’, as in ‘tofu bubble’. It is just deep fried fresh tofu. You can get it in Chinese supermarkets, but as I said, my dad never trusts the oil they use to fry the tofu, so he always prefers to fry it at home for us. — And me… got his habit. :))) It is actually very easy to fry. Chop the fresh tofu into cubes, then deep fry them in the oil. When you see the surface of the tofu changed to ‘oily’ colour (see my photo below), and if you touch it, it becomes ‘puff’, then it is done. Tofu puff is very good to use in the soup, as it is more easier to absorb the sauce and the taste in.
I think frozen tofu is probably only popular in Northern China. I have talked about frozen tofu before. It is ideal for hot-pot, because the texture of the tofu is changed, it became ‘sponge – like’, very easy to absorb the taste in.
Bean curd sheet:
Well, in northern China, we use different kinds of bean curd sheet to the one I mentioned before. We call it tofu’s skin. It is more drier than this bean curd sheet, which is a bit oily. But both are good for hot-pot. There is no need to soak it first, you just simply cut it into desired size, then leave in the boiling hot-pot straight away. It can be done quickly.
How many varieties we have here for hot-pot already!! And it is still not finished yet. I am making another stop, tomorrow will be the last post on hot-pot — promise! :))