To us, hot pot is both.
All the recent hot pot talk on food message boards and in the local and national newspapers tempted us to do a turkey trot to Seven Stars Pepper (at 12th and Jackson, our favorite food corner in Seattle) on Thanksgiving Day – thankful to the Chinese for having holiday hours.
Four is a fine number for ordering hot pot, and we agreed to get the works: platter after platter of meat (thinly sliced pork, beef, chicken and lamb are possible), seafood (shrimp, squid, fish balls and pieces of a white fish), tofu, cabbage, noodles, and tripe. (Note that you might have to ask for the tripe, as the servers assume Caucasians don’t eat it.)
The fun starts when the server fires up the flame of a butane-powered portable burner. Atop the burner is an aluminum pot containing a split of broths – our favorite feature of the meal. One is simple, and one is spiced with our beloved Szechuan peppercorns. Throw in whatever tempts you, monitor the flame, and then use chopsticks to fish out your catch.
It’s an interactive affair that you can enjoy at your own pace; time passes as you talk and taste your way through the communal meal. We’re lucky to have a variety (including Vietnamese, Japanese and Korean) of hot pot places available to us locally during winter and, well, whenever. But we especially like Szechuan-style. The broths are, indeed, willing and eager to accept whatever you want to offer them, and we find the ma-la (numbing and spicy) red variety simply seductive.
Originally posted at Seattlest (where “we” = me) on December 3, 2007.