Home HotPot

My last blog was about culture shock… and still it keeps going. The other day, my phone had 3G, 4G and 5G. Even at Everest Base Camp on the Tibetan side there is 5G.

I was also on a train from Whitehead to Belfast. It takes 35 mins to do 17 miles compared to 23 mins to do 62 miles. No culture shock as I am used to it and the view is one of the best. Today though, I did Birmingham International Airport train station to Stoke-on-Trent and for the journey we stood up the whole way in an entrance way as all carriages were full of people sitting and standing. It was a shock to the system.

Coming into Belfast on the train – there are better views but I woke up to this having slept the journey from Whitehead to Lanyon Place.

And the other thing that I find normal that Eleanor has found strange is that it is still dark when we get up at 7:30am. In China it is light early with no daylight savings.

Moving on to the what this blog is actually about though…

Hotpot – huǒguō. A Chinese version of fondue. A good way of getting over culture shock is to share food of “home” Hotpot was a meal that had been requested by Eleanor for her 14th birthday.

But how to do a hotpot at home. Thankfully, hotpot, with the right equipment is easy at home and if you are Chinese you are bound to have the necessities. But in Suzhou we didn’t have any hotpot stuff as we had always just gone to the restaurant and let someone else prepare and then do the washing up.

So, what do you need?

We just needed a hotpot, to sit in the middle of the table, the broth and then the food to go into it. The day before we left Suzhou, some colleagues helped me order Hai Di Lao hotpot broth mix.

Hai Di Lao is the most revered hotpot restaurant in our family. An international brand, it is the largest chain of hotpot restaurants (around 1300) in China, and its international arm, Super Hi now has 3 branches in the UK of which 2 are in London and 1 is in Birmingham. It is also found in Singapore, the US, South Korea, Japan, Canada, Australia and Malaysia. So I guess there is a business opportunity to open up in Belfast!

But who needs an actual restaurant when a quick amazon search brought up the hotpot.

The hotpot sits in the middle of the table, and if doing it at home, the saucepan sits on an electric hot plate.

However, instead of buying two separate items we bought an electric hotpot/grill.

A search on Amazon also informed us that we could buy the broth too – but it was £6.20 for one pack! The equivalent of £32 ($40ish) worth in China got me 12 packs!

But what about the food? Typically tofu, quails eggs, corn, lotus root, beef, greens, crab sticks, mushrooms, fish balls – anything really. I couldn’t take any of this on the plane from China, so I needed to source it in NI. Thankfully the Asian Supermarket did some of it in frozen form as I found fish balls, crab balls and in fresh form we got the greens of pak choi and Chinese cabbage (actually we didn’t eat much of this in the end). I couldn’t rely on the supermarket visit for everything though, and I put our local butcher to the test by asking them to slice beef as thinly as possible. The cut was sirloin steak, and I needed it as fine as possible. In reality it wasn’t as thin as I find in China, but it did the job and I needn’t have doubted the supermarket – there was hotpot beef. There were also “See You Tomorrow” mushrooms – enoki mushrooms, but we all walked past them -except for Eleanor who saw them. But as I didn’t tell her we needed them for her hotpot, they were left un-bought.

From bottom left… Mushrooms, pak choi, noodles, corn, fish balls, crab balls, prawns, tofu (3 different colours), beef, soy sauce, vinegar, chinese cabbage. Our dipping sauce was coriander, chilli and garlic and our two broths were tomato in one side and mushroom in the other – my parents aren’t ready for the spicy one just yet! And for anyone interested the liquid in the glass to the front of the picture is a Pineau Des Charentes.

A successful birthday? Yes. To be repeated – absolutely. Too much food? Yup. That is the way of hotpot – you don’t think you have eaten that much… but the feeling of being full creeps up on you! And of course we had birthday cake to fit in too.

We have a 14 year in the house. She is the most empathetic, genuine, young lady. Outspoken – absolutely – but we wouldn’t have it any other way. “Sassy” – the below definition sums up Eleanor, some of the time.