It cooks right before your eyes… Hot pot!
I was first exposed to this method of cooking by my Uncle Cao. As I grew up my brother and I would love hanging out at my aunt and uncle’s house. One of our favorite things to do was to spend hours running around shopping at various grocery stores and Asian markets with my uncle. We were In search of just the right ingredients to cook the dish of the day or the weekend. On occasion it did indeed take all weekend to prepare the ingredients for just one meal. When the task was finally complete we found sometimes we wanted to eat it, but a lot of times we didn’t have the stomach for it. If it was gross, we were thankful for the endless samples fed to us at the grocery store. He would tell us to taste it, “It Good!” Well I cannot say it was always good, but one of the meals I always enjoyed was hot pot!
Cooking in hot pots is found in various Asian cuisines, but seem to have originated in Mongolia. There are various names and styles. I am sure they are all delicious. Shabu Shabu in Japan. Suki in Thailand. Steamboat in Singapore. … in Vietnam they call it Lẩu, Món Lẩu or Lẩu Canh Chua. I call it hot pot!
Lẩu Canh Chua is a Vietnamese sour-based soup. My version is not specifically Lẩu Canh Chua as I deviated from some of the ingredients. No glass noodles, tomato, or pineapple. Also I did not make my base broth from scratch. I used a jarred hot pot base from Thailand. However, it was just as delicious.
The most time-consuming part of this meal is the preparation of all the vegetables, meat, noodles, and sauces. I just used what was fresh and available at my local grocery store or Asian market: squash, zucchini, carrots, onion, mint, mushroom, red pepper, and tofu.
When I was in Vietnam I always saw vendors using strange kitchen tools to assist with their tasks. Some would cut fruit into long strips and others would julienne green papaya or carrots to be put into a salad or top a banh mi. I have always wanted one!
Creates nice strips without a lot of fuss or mess.
More veggies including bok choy, broccoli, bean sprouts, basil, and cilantro.
On the far right, you can see some firm tofu I cut up and pan-fried. I used a bit of olive oil, a sprinkle of curry powder, and some salt.
I like to use a nice cut of beef when making hot pot. This time I picked a nicely marbled New York Strip. It is best to slice when it is just slightly still frozen in the center to ensure you get nice slices. Remember to cut against the grain. Some shrimp were also invited to the party.
I purchased the hot pot at an Asian market for about $20. There are a few different sizes to choose from but I picked a medium one.
To use the hot pot, you just need to fill the center of the pot with a few pieces of hot charcoal. Then add your prepared broth. The broth base I used for this pot was a Tom Yum Sour Shrimp paste. Purchasing a paste can save you a lot of time and makes the prep of the broth a snap. There are several varieties available at your local Asian market. Spicy, sweet, sour, salty all in one handy jar. This specific Tom Yum has a mix of lemongrass, galanga (another form of ginger), chilies, sugar, lime leaf, salt, and some oil. I used Lucky Coin Brand. I mixed three spoonfuls of paste with every three cups of water. I also added a bit more chili for added spice. Heat the mixture to a boil on your stove and then reduce heat to keep hot. When ready, carefully add to the pot that has the charcoal in the center.
Now you are ready to add your meat and veggies. Watch them cook before your eyes. It wasn’t as amazing as I was when I was a kid, but it is still an exciting eating adventure.
You can cook and eat the pieces individually or together with some broth as a soup.
Another way to enjoy is to eat some of the cooked meat with the raw veggies wrapped up in some rice paper.
I like to mix some hosin, chunky peanut butter, siracha, and some soy sauce to create a nice dipping sauce for the rice paper. You could also dip it in some of the hot pot broth.
My sister-in-law Rebecca came to stay with us for a few weeks. On our way to Des Moines from Fargo we stopped at one of my favorite places in Minneapolis for Vietnamese. Pho Tau Bay on Nicollet. This was her reaction to adding extra chilies to her Hủ tiếu nước chay (Rice noodle tofu , napa vegt, carrot, & pepop bean). That is some spicy tofu! I am still not sure we know what a pepop bean is…
Rebecca likes to respect the animals, so I made her own vegetarian hot pot. Using a similar hot pot paste sans the shrimp. I only had one hot pot, so I used a cast iron pot to heat her broth. The cast iron retained the heat and allowed the vegetables to cook perfectly.
I made some pineapple and coconut water drinks as we prepared and ate our dinner outside. The hot pot was fun and the food… well, “It Good!”
Please Note: Use caution when using the hot pot. Ensure there is a stable base so the pot doesn’t tip over and cause serious burns.