Eating out in China can be a different experience than eating out in America. Two of my favorite dishes to have when I go out and eat are Chinese hot pot and barbecue. Chinese hot pot is like a fondue pot but instead of oil or cheese you have a broth. It can be done in an individual pot or in one big pot. Chinese barbecue is done in a small, heavy pot that goes in the middle of your table. Both of these dishes are cooked right at the table.
In the hot pot, you will have broth or water. Paper-thin meat is usually the first item you will choose. The selection ranges from beef, chicken, lamb or fish. When I have had fish hot pot, we selected the fish we wanted from a pool of live fish. After picking the fish that we wanted, we then went to the room where it would be served. By the time the broth was hot, the fish arrived ready to go into the pot.
Items that go with the meats are mushrooms, spinach, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, eggs, potato and tofu. When the broth is near boiling, it is time to take your thin meat and place it into a small spoon that has several holes in it so that the broth can surround the meat and cook it. It usually takes a minute or two to cook the meat. Each person has their own small cup of sesame oil that has been seasoned to their taste. Items that can go into the sesame oil are cilantro, finally diced garlic, soy sauce or seasoned vinegar.
After you have had some of the meat, it is time to start adding the vegetables, etc. It is so nice to sit around and enjoy the conversation, while you slowly cook your lunch or dinner. When you are finished the heat can be turned off and when the broth is cooled it is delicious to eat as a soup. That is my favorite part!
When I have had Chinese barbecue, they have brought a round shallow pan with about a quarter of an inch of water in the bottom. It seem like this is to keep the table cool. There is a heavy cast iron grill on top of a cast iron pot on very hot coals. When it was hot enough, the marinated meat, which was also mixed with small onions a little garlic and cilantro, was put onto the oiled pan to cook. It only took about 3 to 5 minutes for the thin marinated slices to cook. I have also seen them put thin slices of vegetables to cook on the hot surface.
I find that when you travel outside of your home country, it is important to experience the food of the local people. It is the adventure and fun that add the spice to savoring life.
Speaker and author Dian Thomas shares her journey of weight loss, exercise and life on the run every other Wednesday in the Deseret News and at www.DianThomas.com. She also speaks to groups and takes tour to China. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org