I had a cold, and when I get a cold, there is only one answer to the age old “What’s for dinner?” question. That answer? Szechuan hot pot. A steaming hot pot of broth on the table, the warm flame keeping both the liquid and me cozy, the spice of the dish clearing out my sinuses with a fierce force. There are many great options for hot pot right in my neighborhood, but alas, going out to dinner was not an option this particular night. I had altogether too many things on the verge of going bad in my fridge and I wasn’t willing to waste the food. So I came up with a compromise.
Using a package of hot pot mix ($0.75 at our local Asian market) and some beef broth, the hot pot was ready in no time. As that came to temperature, I chopped up a few of those foods about to go bad, cutting each to the appropriate size for dipping. While the chicken was easy, slicing the breast as thinly as possible, the Brussels sprouts, I ended up deciding to parboil. Really, they weren’t too different from the traditional cabbage that goes in to hot pot. Then I sliced up bell peppers that were about to go soft on me and added them to the plate. To round it out, I plopped on a few frozen shrimp and some handmade whole wheat noodles from a meal earlier this week. For dipping sauces, I made one with peanut butter, coconut milk and soy sauce, and another of soy sauce and egg. These cool the ingredients after they’re pulled from the hot broth.
As we sat around the broth and dipped and dunked, cooking our foods and clearing our sinuses, I realized that while my ingredients weren’t all traditional, nor my broth quite as good as at the restaurants, for a sick person who is hesitant to leave home, perhaps this was the way to hot pot.