Hello everyone out there and happy new year! Today’s post I will be doing something that is a bit different from the typical Mastication Monologues that you all know and love. Instead of reviewing a restaurant, I will be talking about a certain type of cuisine that I have never had before but have always wanted to try: hot pot.
Now I do love my Panda Express and other types of insanely Americanized Asian food including the ubiquitous fortune cookie and orange chicken, but I always have found authentic Chinese cuisine to be quite interesting in terms of how many different types of ingredients are used and variations there are on dishes depending on which city you are in. Hot pot is no different. To ring in 2013 right, my friend David invited me over to his family’s hot pot dinner, so I naturally was honored to be brought along for this culinary adventure.
I had already some basic background knowledge about this type of meal going into it, but I quickly found out that hot pot is much more complicated and nuanced than just sticking random vegetables and strips of meat into a boiling pot of water. Before we even sat down, I was immediately faced with my first new snack of the evening, congealed roe with slices of daikon radish. I’ve had daikon radish before from sushi platters, but I have never consumed fish eggs in any form. Upon first glance, I was surprised that the roe looked like small woodchips instead of the more recognizable orange or black caviar pearls. I ended up eating the roe on the radish like a slice of cheese on a Ritz cracker, and it was an interesting blend of textures and flavors. Biting through the fish roe felt almost like eating a piece of hard cheese that had elements of beef jerky and smoked fish coursing throughout its semi-smooth interior, and the daikon left a light and crisp impression on my palate. I helped myself to a couple more servings of this fish dish, but I was quickly whisked away to try a new drink.
Even though I had a Blue Moon in my hand, my friend David asked me if I’d like to try a homemade version of soy milk. Naturally, I said, “Bring it on!” He led me over to the kitchen where he poured out some pastel green liquid in a cup for me. I had initially spied these containers of green goop thinking that it was going to be some sort of sauce for meat, but boy was I wrong. So I took a sip of the soy milk, and it was quite thin in consistency with a mostly neutral taste and slightly grassy undertones.
However, David kicked it up a notch Ming Tsai style by adding some honey to this Chinese drink, and it made it taste sort of like milk with sugar in it. Plus, the highly viscous honey added a bit more body to the beverage which made it more filling and complimented the spicy three-ring circus that was to come when we finally sat down for the actual hot pot where I managed to finally use chopsticks for an entire meal, eat Chinese pizza, and cheers to the new year…but you’ll have to wait for the next post to hear about the second part of this delectable dinner!