It’s no secret that people have been baking and cooking up a storm during this pandemic—many of us are spending a lot more time at home, which gives us a chance to try new recipes or re-create old favourites.
One crowd-pleaser in particular that I haven’t given up on is Chinese hot pot, even though it might seem a bit counterintuitive without a mob of friends and family.
As a writer who comes from a Hong Kong Chinese background, I grew up eating hot pot on the regular. My family and I took advantage of any and every occasion to enjoy this cozy, communal meal that emphasizes gathering and interacting with each other.
Granted, it’s not usually the kind of feast to be enjoyed alone—the collective experience of cooking various foodstuffs (such as meats, veggies, tofu, and noodles) in a pot of simmering soup stock with other hungry diners makes up half of the hot-potting experience. So eating hot pot in a pandemic takes a bit of discipline and patience.
But as a seasoned hot-pot consumer who has been responsibly quarantining at home and following all of the social-distance protocols laid out by local health authorities, I was up for the challenge.
In fact, I have already enjoyed hot pot with my housemate countless times during this unprecedented time, always making sure to use communal utensils when cooking our food in the shared pot of broth. Pro tip: Don’t let your own chopsticks touch any shared food or surfaces.
And for those of you who might resort to eating hot pot alone, there are many ways to feel less isolated: schedule a Zoom chat with friends for a virtual feast while they enjoy their own hot pot, or binge the latest Korean drama on Netflix (Crash Landing on You is great if you haven’t seen it).
It’s an easy and tasty meal to prepare, and brings plenty of comfort, even when you aren’t enjoying it in person with six of your closest friends or family members.
Essential hot-pot supplies can still be found at Asian grocers like T&T Supermarket or H-Mart, which usually carry sliced fatty beef and pork belly, various fish and squid balls, and vegetables such as radish, lettuce, baby bok choy, and more. Soft tofu, mushrooms, and udon are also popular additions to the pot.
Don’t forget to pick up condiments to make the perfect sauce mixture—which gives the cooked hot-pot food extra great flavours. You won’t go wrong with a blend of soy sauce, sesame oil, peanut sauce, barbecue sauce, and XO sauce, topped with some chopped cilantro and green onions.
Alternatively, food-lovers can also opt to order hot-pot takeout from various Metro Vancouver hot-pot restaurants through local food delivery apps such as Fantuan and Uber Eats.
Richmond’s perennially busy hot-pot joint, Dolar Shop, is offering combo meals for one or two people ($21.99 to $129.99). These takeaway kits include soup broths, meats such as boneless wagyu short plates or prime boneless short ribs, napa cabbage, winter melon, enoki mushrooms, and luncheon pork, among other items.
Customers can also order à la carte, for menu items such as New Zealand lamb shoulder, wagyu cubes, jumbo scallop, organic giant tiger prawn, shrimp paté, fish tofu, hand-crafted noodles, and most importantly, condiments such as barbecue sauce and sesame sauce. Diners can even order a portable gas stove ($44.99) and canisters of gas.
Restrictions on dining establishments are expected to slowly start to lift later this month, so we may be able to enjoy these shared meals with our companions under new distancing measures very soon. But until then, there’s no need to deprive ourselves. Pausing to savour a hot pot at home now can bring a calming and tasty sense of normalcy, even without the communal dining experience that many of us may currently crave.
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