My favourite winter food

It’s winter. It is cold outside and you feel like eating warm and comforting foods. It is the perfect time to enjoy a delicious hot pot!

The hot pot is not a kind of food, but a way of preparing food. In hot pot restaurants, food is brought raw to your table and you cook it yourself in your boiling soup pot. In some restaurants there is a big pot for your whole table (up to 4 or 6 people) and in others each person gets their own private small pot. The shared pots usually are divided in two or three sections so you can boil your food in different soup flavours (spicy, pork bone, mushrooms, seafood… you name it). For the small private pots, you choose the soup you want.

Raw foods waiting to be boiled and eaten!

Thinly sliced beef and lamb are usually the stars of hot pot restaurants, but there are many other things you can eat: fish balls, seafood, any kind of vegetables and mushrooms, dumplings, noodles, eggs, tofu…

When the soup starts boiling you can start pouring things into the pot. Don’t put too many things at the same time or the soup will stop boiling and they will take a long time to become cooked! Potatoes and mushrooms will take longer to cook, meat and leafy veggies will only need a few seconds. And when they are ready it’s time to dip them in sauce and start eating!

Some restaurants have a sauce bar and let you choose all the sauces you want; others only allow you to choose one sauce. Chinese people usually add cilantro to their sauces, and the most popular sauces are sesame and peanut.

The hot pot is believed to originally come from Mongolia but there are not historic proofs to refute this. However, when I started learning Mandarin, I remember we studied the word 火锅 huoguo (hot pot) in the first year and the teacher, a lovely man from Xi’an, translated it as “Mongolian pot”.

The first time I tried hot pot was during my first semester in Beijing. There was a very famous hot pot restaurant close to our university and it was very popular among students because it was dirt cheap and also because beers and icecreams were free. Obviously, that place was always packed! At that time I could hardly speak any Mandarin or use chopsticks properly and my Korean classmate patiently taught me all the secrets of hot pot.

I love eating hot pot in the winter because it is so warm! Having the boiling soup right in front of you makes you almost forget you don’t have heating at home (if you live south of Nanjing!).

I could eat hot pot every day.

Damn, now I am hungry!