By Wang Hai, Ning Shung, Yang Mingzhuo
Hot pot can be safely crowned as one of the most favored food among Chinese people, especially in chilly days. Recently as the freezing weather arrives, a saying has emerged among young people — “The best way to date someone you like is to invite him/her for hot pot.” It has been proved an extremely effective tip since almost no one can resist the temptation of having a warm hot pot with friends in winter. No matter enjoying it in restaurants or making it at home, the lure and magic of hot pot never decreases. One of the most outstanding features of Chinese hot pot is that people can boil almost every delicacy they favor in the pot. The menu of hot pot can be a thick brochure embracing different kinds of thinly sliced meat and meat product, which includes mutton, beef, pork and poultry, shrimps, vegetables, tofu, mushrooms, noodles and so on. For a homemade hot pot, the choices are more diverse and economical. Besides, dipping sauces of hot pot is also diversified. Most modern hot pot restaurants offer a dozen or even dozens of dipping sauces for people to choose and mix according to their own preferences, at the same time, the diversity of dipping sauce can also be observed on the shelves of markets.
Boasting a history of centuries, Chinese hot pot has now developed into several variants in different areas, including northern-styled hot pot featuring instant-boiled mutton with mild broth in Northern China, Chongqing hot pot famed for its numb and spicy flavor, Chaoshan hot pot characterized as various parts of beef boiling in mild stock, seafood hot pot in Southern China and so on. With the differences often lying in the meats used, the type of soup base, and the sauces and condiments used to flavor the meat, each variant has drawn in a huge number of fans, which tend to be overlapping. Despite of flavors, the joy and delight offered by hot pots are commonly shared. It is a sheer joy to seal cold wind, freezing rain, or falling snow out of the door, while sitting around the table with families or friends, with a pot of broth slowly cooking all favorite food inside. From the bubbling soup, rising hot fragrant steam, and the beloved ones sitting beside, one can easily touch the simple, cozy happiness the traditional delicacy grants.