A hot pot meal
Chinese hot pot is a very grounding experience. Not dissimilar to fondue, I love the communal aspect of cooking a meal this way. There's something very intimate about everyone's food cooking in one shared pot, much more so than a routine meal at the dinner table. Everyone is armed with a mesh wire spoon to dip and retrieve food. The body language at the table is different; we are all faced inward toward the pot in the middle of the table. You also don’t get the sense that anyone is distracted with anything else but cooking, scooping, eating. Hot pot is actually pretty basic and primitive: a pot of boiling liquid, tossing in raw food, letting it cook a few minutes, scooping it out and eating it. There's no fancy sautéing here!
You can cook anything in this simmering metal vessel. Our menu consisted of: sliced beef, sliced chicken, mushrooms, bok choy, watercress, clams, vermicelli, wontons, scallops, tofu and cabbage. Our liquid base was low-sodium chicken broth with two homemade dipping sauces: homemade chili oil, and another concoction, which mixed together water, fish sauce, lime juice, a little sugar, chili pepper and garlic. The proportion I used was a 3:1 water-to-fish sauce ratio; I also added in a couple of teaspoons of sesame oil to add a nutty flavor.
So healthy, yummy and gives new meaning to “dining together.”