I am in the mood for using Chinese ingredients. The refrigerator is very well stocked with them now. And it helps if they cook with the minimum fuss. So I settled on making this hotpot recipe. I had it very frequently when I shared a kitchen with some Chinese friends in USA. They would put in a super-rich sauce out of a satchet. A set of ordinary ingredients would be transformed into something steaming and magical. The weather was awfully cold in Omaha. Most of the time we had it standing in the kitchen right next to the rice cooker where it was made. Practically anything can be added, as long as the stock remains clear. My friends would even add corn-on-the-cobs, though it does take a long time to cook. Back at home, I set my rice cooker on the dining table, arranged the prepped vegetables/ meat/seafood that were available around and started on making the hotpot only after we were all ready to eat. This is the ideal winter one-pot meal. I stress the one-pot part! The hotpot spice is basically lots of garlic, ginger, red chilli, salt, soya and bean sauces made into a paste and stored with oil. My Chinese friends could never tell me the exact recipe. But I intend to work around with these ingredients by and by to have something similar on hand.
3 cups water
2 cups home-made broth; I used chicken
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
½ cup sweet corn, frozen or 8 sliced baby corn
1 inch ginger, crushed lightly
2 cloves garlic, crushed lightly
300 gm boneless skinless chicken; I had a few pieces pre-cooked
200 gm paneer, cut into 1-inch cubes
A handful of prawns; I had frozen ones on hand
Crab legs; 3 frozen ones
200 gm mangetout, trimmed and sliced
2 medium scallions, chopped
1 to 2 teaspoon hotpot sauce
1 pack dried egg noodle
Salt to taste
2 dry chilli, crumbled
1/4 lemon, juice
A pinch salt
A pinch sugar
3 Tablespoon oil; I used garlic flavoured groundnut oil
Cut all vegetables into thin slices. It will take less time to cook that way. The ingredients I used are all quick-cooking. So I only brought the broth to a boil and in quick succession added the rest of the components according to how long they would require to cook. I added the egg noodle at the last in a strainer to retrieve it more easily. One can just boil it once the broth is ready, right in it. Anything which requires longer period to cook can be added into the broth at the beginning. Don’t overload the cooker; the ingredients need to shimmer. So in a group, encourage guests to add as they need.
The amounts suggested would actually feed easily 4. But making it in small volumes doesn’t make sense. The broth can be drunk in any quantities. The strained cooked vegetables/meat can be used as topping for rice or noodles.
The dipping sauce just requires the most cursory mixing. Traditionally sesame oil is used instead of groundnut.
Serve steaming in bowls and provide chopsticks for everyone.