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Beijing Lamb Hot Pot

Hot pot, less commonly Chinese fondue or steamboat, refers to several East Asian varieties of stew, consisting of a simmering metal pot of stock at the center of the dining table. While the hot pot is kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table. Typical hot pot dishes include thinly sliced meat, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, egg dumplings, and seafood. The cooked food is usually eaten with a dipping sauce. In many areas, hot pot meals are often eaten in the winter.

Beijing Lamb Hot Pot

Beijing Lamb Hot Pot

History of Hot Pot

The Chinese hot pot boasts a history of more than 1000 years.While often called "Mongolian hot pot", it is unclear if the dish actually originates in Mongolia. Mongol warriors had been known to cook with their helmets, which they used to boil food[citation needed], but due to the complexity and specialization of the utensils and the method of eating it, hot pot cooking is much better suited to a sedentary culture. A nomadic household will avoid such highly specialized tools, to save volume and weight during migration. Both the preparation method and the required equipment are unknown in the cuisine of Mongolia of today.

Hot pot cooking seems to have spread to northern China during the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-906).In time, regional variations developed with different ingredients such as seafood. By the Qing Dynasty, the hot pot became popular throughout most of China. Today in many modern homes, particularly in the big cities, the traditional coal-heated steamboat or hot pot has been replaced by electric, gas or induction cooker versions.

Because hot pot styles change so much from region to region, many different ingredients are used.

Regional variations

In Beijing (Peking), hot pot is eaten year-round. Typical Beijing hot pot is eaten indoors during the winter. Different kinds of hot pot can be found in Beijing - typically, more modern eateries offer the sectioned bowl with differently flavored broths in each section. More traditional or older establishments serve a fragrant, but mild, broth in the hot pot, which is a large brass vessel heated by burning coals in a central chimney. Broth is boiled in a deep, donut-shaped bowl surrounding the chimney.

Beijing Lamb Hot Pot

Beijing Lamb Hot Pot

The Manchurian hot pot uses plenty of Suan cai (Chinese sauerkraut) to make the pot's stew sour.

One of the most famous variations is the Sichuan or Szechuan ( "numb and spicy") hot pot, to which a special spice known as hua jiao ("flower pepper" or Sichuan Pepper) is added. It creates a sensation on the tongue that is both spicy and burns and numbs slightly, almost like carbonated beverages. It was usual to use a variety of different meats as well as sliced mutton fillet. A Sichuan hotpot is markedly different from the types eaten in other parts of China. Quite often the differences lie in the meats used, the type of soup base, and the sauces and condiments used to flavor the meat. The cities of Chengdu and Chongqing are also famous for their different kinds of huo guo. "Si Chuan huo guo" could be used to distinguish from simply "huo guo" in cases when people refer to the "Northern Style Hot Pot" in China. "Shuan yang rou", (instant-boiled lamb) could be viewed as representative of this kind of food, which does not focus on the soup base.

In Xishuangbanna, Yunnan Province in southwestern China near the border with Myanmar, the broth is often divided into a yin and yang shape - a bubbling, fiery red chilli broth on one side, and a cooler white chicken broth on the other.

A Cantonese variation includes mixing a raw egg with the condiments to reduce the amount of 'heat' absorbed by the food, thereby reducing the likelihood of a sore throat after the steamboat meal, according to Chinese herbalist theories.

In the Taiwanese hot pot, also called shabu-shabu due to Japanese influence, people eat the food with a dipping sauce consisting of shacha sauce and raw egg yolk.