Last night my colleague Manyuan, who originally hails from Szechuan, invited me to a new Chinese restaurant in Chicago: a “hot pot” restaurant, featuring a dish whose home happens to be the town where Manyuan was born. A “hot pot” is a boiling cauldron of various broths, into which you dip things like raw meat, shrimp, tofu, vegetables, and mushrooms, and then dip the cooked substances into a variety of sauces. According to Manyuan, and also my own experience in Szechuan, this was the real thing.
Here’s the menu. We ordered the tripartite cauldron “triple flavor” with three different broths (upper left). The hot one was spicy!
Manyuan likes to eat, which makes him an ideal dinner companion, and so after he ordered (I let him do all the ordering, eschewing only the ordering of organs and offal), we had a ton of food. First shrimp chips and tea, along with a plate of pork belly. The big lump in the lower “spicy” section of the cauldron, which was soon boiling away, is a piece of beef fat that melted.
The whole schmear, with mushrooms, tofu, tree ear (fungus), long fugus, bean sprouts, and veggies to the rear. The golden bull was said to contain wagyu beef.
It was absolutely terrific, and we ate for over two hours. Hot pot is good because you can have conversation while your food cooks, and can cook it at your leisure. It’s a great dining & social experience.