Thursday, March 6, 2008
Normally, this is a pretty easy dinner to throw together, but we hit a few complications today, both weather-related and not. First of all, I didn't manage to get to the store because we had both sleet and snow! Yes, in Texas in March! Crazy! But luckily, T came home early and I decided to venture out on my own to the Chinese grocery store down the street to pick up a few supplies. The roads really weren't as bad as everyone make them out to be.
So the hot pot, or "shabu shabu" as it's often called (which is actually the Japanese word for it) is pretty straightforward. You sit around a pot filled with broth (I usually use chicken) and add whatever you like to it, cooking and eating as you go. It's great because you can pick and choose what you want to eat, and add or subtract anything you like. You could do a vegetarian version, or all seafood, all meat...you get the idea. It was always a favorite winter meal when I was a child, and I'm pretty sure that it's the reason why my parents put an electric stovetop in the island in our kitchen, even though they used a gas stove for everything else.
Nowadays, I use a little camp stove, although today it ran out of gas about 30 seconds after we got started, which led to T leaving to go on an insane hunt to 4 different stores for the little gas canisters...yeah, don't get me started.
I use the same giant Corning casserole that we used growing up (also swiped from my mom), but any wide pot will work just fine as well. You just want to use something that's not going to hang off the edge of the burner and potentially tip over, since you're going to be sitting so close to it, dipping food in and out. Did I forget to mention that there's an element of danger to this meal?
And here's a picture of the all stuff that I bought to throw in the pot; most of it raw, and most pretty standard for shabu shabu:
Thinly sliced beef and pork, bought pre-sliced from the Chinese grocery store; shell-on shrimp, fish balls, shrimp balls, fried tofu, napa cabbage. The weird stringy looking things are enoki mushrooms. The stuff soaking in the silver bowl is a bundle of bean thread noodles. We usually add those at the very end and then eat them with the remaining soup.
I forgot I had some baby portobello mushrooms laying around too, so they're not in these pictures, but I added them later on. I also had some daikon, but it was already in the pot because it needs to be parboiled for a little while. And I sometimes have spinach, but I wasn't in the mood for it today (too lazy to wash). Oh, and yes, this is kind of an insane amount of food for just two people. And yes, we're pigs and we ate almost all of it.
I also bought these cute little wire baskets for 99 cents, which help keep you from losing the meat in the broth. They have these nice little divots in the middle which keep them from sliding all the way into the pot. And they don't get hot either.
I usually bring the broth to a boil on the stove first and parboil or heat up anything that needs to be cooked a little longer, like the daikon. Even though they're precooked, I threw in the fish and shrimp balls since some were still a little frozen. And the tofu I just threw in for the hell of it. Then I poured everything into the casserole.
Almost forgot about the condiments! That's one of the most important parts. I have no idea if this is typical or not, but we use soy sauce, Chinese vinegar and this stuff that calls itself "Chinese Barbecue Sauce," in the can.
Now, I have no idea why it is called that as it is nothing like any barbecue sauce that I've ever tasted, and I've never used it on any kind of barbecue, Chinese or otherwise. It's really kind of a sludgy, slightly salty sauce, for lack of a better description. It's good, just take my word for it. Even T likes it. My mom also uses hot chili paste, but I'm a spicy wussy, so I don't mess with that. Everyone mixes up their own combo of whatever they like, and you pretty much dip everything in it.
As I mentioned earlier, we had a slight hitch when we ran out of gas for the camp stove. So we ended up just doing it on our stovetop and eating standing up. It still tasted really good, just a little different from the norm. It helps that we were way too hungry to care. Here's an "action" shot of food cooking.
Basically, the meat is sliced super duper thin. So you put it in, it cooks in about 10 seconds. Then you take it out and eat it immediately, usually scalding your tongue in the process.
After we ate up almost everything, I added the bean thread noodles to the pot. They cooked up pretty quickly and then we added the noodles and some of the remaining soup to the bowls with our dipping sauce. I was way too full and lazy to take any more pictures.
I think this is now officially the longest post I've ever made.