We had hotpot some Saturdays ago. For the uninitiated, it’s a kind of fondue, but with soup and a huge variety of tasties, all done Chinese style. The dish is traditionally eaten in the colder months. One can easily imagine the visuals of a group of people gathering together, whether family or friends, around a hot steaming bubbling pot of broth, hungry and cold, slowly warmed by the boiling pot and food, and for the more social minded of us, the chatter and collection of human bodies adds to the ‘warming’ process too (though that is agony to people like me, and the part that I most dislike). In the sunny warm humid tropics, this is still a favourite – either enjoyed in the evenings outdoors (hoping for gentle breeze) or with the air-conditioning full blast. 🙂

Well, over here in Sydney, the colder weather has arrived. So, I thought it would be a good time to introduced my friend Rick to Chinese hotpot. The broth was a simple one, with carrot and Chinese cabbage, helped along by some chicken stock powder. I would’ve put in chicken bones for added body but the chicken I’d ordered online failed to arrive – out of stock. Rick sportingly came bearing gifts of chicken and beef, so all was well, no reason for panic.

Preparing for hotpot is simple but labour intensive. A lot of slicing and arranging. But it can be quite therapeutic a process too. I like the rhythmic repetition, the sounds, and of course, the anticipation of gastronomic delight! The one part I dislike about the cooking process is the tactile demand: having to touch raw ingredients and completing each task involving direct contact is a challenging act of will power. I find myself consciously having to quell the urge to wash my hands – not from OCD mind you, but just wanting to remove the feel of the material from my fingers. Raw meats, each with its own trextures, and even vegetables or fruits, especially when the fibres cling to one’s fingers, or seeds oozing everywhere.

I survived the tactile assault. And we sat down for a delicious meal – including dramatic chatter (from me, who else) and occasional insightful interjections (from Rick). Lucy always provides the warm glowing smiles emanating from somewhere deep within one’s spiritual core, of course. And yes, she did get a few pieces of beef (I fight shy of feeding her raw chicken). Lucy was quite doggedly persistent, and the ingenuous ways she employed to achieve her goals were too hilariously cute to ignore. Another lesson in the art of perseverance!

All in all, a great effort indeed!


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