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Chinese Recipes
Chinese Style Hot Pot
Chinese style hot pot has several styles, none of which are known in the west. The most popular version is Mongolian Hot Pot as served in the famous Chinese restaurant chain 'The Little Sheep' or 'Siu Fai Yeurm' in Cantonese.

The dish is called either Dai Bein Lo or Sang Wu in Cantonese. Both phrases meaning equivalent to a long and relaxed journey (pastime [meal]) - often of many hours duration.

The basic premise is you have a large pan of simmering water on a hotplate, and add herbs and spices as a basic stock. Most of these have a central divider, allowing one half to be savoury and mild, whilst the other side is chilli hot. There are ones that have a three-way divider, but these are not common.

At home we use a standard single casserole like the one pictured below. The device below it is a Chinese portable hot plate with a range of temperature controls (In Chinese of course). The casserole is over 1 foot wide by 4 inches high. We use seasoning and water only, supplying the hot and mild as dips. However, we recommend a central divided one for entertaining guests, as this is a lot of fun, and also quite delicious.

Basic Preparation for all Dishes

Using a casserole with two halves, you add ingredients as follows:
Both sides:
1. Stock as described below.
2. 1oz Bak Kay
3. 2oz sliced ginger.
4. Several wardrobes of garlic, whole peeled cloves only.
5. 1/2 oz thin celery stalks.
6. 1 or more leeks of 4 to 6 inch pieces.
7. 10 Red Dates or rose hips.
8. 1 Handful white Chinese medicinal roots.

The Chilli side only:
1. 1 Tbsp seriously hot chilli sauce = your choice.
2. 1 oz whole mustard seeds
3. 1 oz black whole Sichuan peppercorns.
4. A couple of the smallest dark green seeds you can imagine. I have no idea what these are, but they are wicked!
5. A little Ziran powder.
6. Half a dozen finely diced "hot" red or green chilli's, including the seeds. This is going to be very hot! Different types of chilli's should be used.

The mild side only:
1. A couple star anise
2. 1oz red dates or Hong Zhao, or use rose hips.
3. Several weird, small, ridged nuts, or use whole nutmeg instead
4. A few long white mushrooms - like 'Enoki (kaam jum goo)'.
5. One large tin of coconut milk, and pay for a better quality one.
6.1 oz very small orange fruits 1/4 inch long drops and medicinal - called "Gay d'Zhee".

Image: Mongolian Hotpot - Click to Enlarge
I have now sourced these divided hot pot dishes, which come in four sizes. The cost is around £20 - $25 depending upon size and specifications + P & P from China. Let me know if you want one...

Image: Mongolian Hotpot - Click to Enlarge

Image: Cantonese Chicken Hotpot - Click to Enlarge
The Basic Stock

Add 1 tin of good quality coconut milk to a large pot or kettle, and add a tablespoon of chicken bouillon granules. Add a hint of salt and pepper, but just a smidgeon of both. Also add half a teaspoonful of sesame seed paste or puree, and a little 5 Spice powder. Add about four pints of water and bring to the boil stirring continuously at first until settled, and then occasionally as it boils and becomes full to flavour.

Make a second pot exactly the same, or double the ingredients and size of kettle used originally.

Taste. This should be nice enough for you to want to have a bowl as a soup. To begin with, this should have the consistency of fat-free milk (Uggg!) Leave on the lowest possible simmer, and check infrequently to ensure there is enough water and the stock is not too thick already.

Top up both sides with stock, which should take all of the first kettle of stock. Present to table by placing on the hot plate and turning up the heat to maximum.

This is basically a type of "Cook it Yourself", so you can add whatever you like to either side. The main proviso is that everything is cut really thin. Meat should be wafer thin, and is sold for the purpose in the freezer section of all Chinese supermarkets. Vegetables such as potatoes should be sliced to about 1/4 inch thick.

Wish List:

Wafer thin beef
Wafer thin lamb
Small chicken chunks
Fish slices or segments of a fish like haddock
Pigs brains - tastes just like pate and really suits this dish!
Baby squid
Chinese like to eat lambs penis or chicken intestines, but I have no problem skipping these particular culinary delights.
Tripe cut into 2-inch squares.

Potatoes, Carrots, Chinese potatoes or Wu Tao, Water Chestnuts, or anything similar. Slice into 1/4 inch deep ovals and cook for around 10 minutes. Therefore these need to go in first, or earlier than you plan on eating them.

Other great ingredients:

I would add several types of mushrooms to this dish. A must are 'Straw', and Chinese stick mushrooms - Enoki or Snowpuff Mushrooms. Another standard are whole Black Mushrooms, and any other mushroom you like, as all work great with this dish.

I always look forward to adding the dried beancurd gnarly sticks, which are actually a medicine. They are also the only known antidote to excess chilli (Apart from cream, which is not sold in Canton), and work immediately on the palate.

Wet green kelp is another stalwart ingredient of Chinese hot pot, although again, I can miss this one. However, the finely shredded seaweed is quite edible from the mild side.

Chinese will always add one or several types of leaves, which are usually added near the end of the meal. Cheung Choi, Ba Choi, Dai Ba Choi (Chinese leaves), Iceberg lettuce etc; are all popular.

Image: Yeurm Cha

Image: Beef slices - Click to Enlarge

Image: Flat Rice Noodles - Click to Enlarge

Image: Cantonese Chicken Hotpot - Click to Enlarge

Image: Home Hot Pot Cooker - Click to Enlarge
From this list of cookable items, which is by no means exhaustive, you will realise that this dish gets better the more people that are eating it. We find ten is an ideal number, but more or less is fine.

Remember to top up both sides with the hot stock every 15 minutes or so, and know many people will enjoy a bowl of the resulting soup near the end - it contains the essential flavours of everything you have communally cooked.

Side Dishes
There is not really much to add now for a perfect and novel meal. However, I would supply several dips of fine sesame seed sauce - which can be bought in China ready made in jars.

In the west I would add a roughly diced mediterranean style salad with oils, and a few bottles of chilled Chianti 'Classico' and a bottle of Ouzo. In China, ice-cold beers and 'Ba Zhao' (Rice Wine) work very well so; eat, drink, and be merry!

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