Tonight was a frigid one in Chicago, so Tom, Jake, and I headed up to Chinatown for mouth-numbing hotpot. It had been years since I’d had hotpot, so long that 14-year-old Jake didn’t remember the last time we went about seven years earlier. (Years before that, my dorm cafeteria in Hong Kong used to serve Beijing-style hotpot, so I’d eat it quite often, even for lunch.)
The hotpot menu tonight included appetizers like Chinese pancake.
And lamb dumplings.
Then we got ready for the hotpot. The waiter brought out sauces, green onion, and cilantro. Behind it is a large plate of vegetables, tofu, vermicelli, and seafood.
We ordered the Sichuan-style mala broth (the red one) and non-spicy chicken broth (with tomatoes, green onion, and Chinese dates).
We took turns placing meat (thin slices of beef and lamb), vegetables, and the rest into the boiling broth.
The waiter asked if we needed more of anything, including extra chili peppers. It was plenty spicy, so we left it as is. Sichuan hotpot is both spicy and numbing, but this wasn’t as out of control as the hotpot I ate in Chongqing one summer 18 years ago. When the waiter came back and asked if we wanted wheat noodles, I agreed to that.
It was a fun evening, a good chance for me to practice Mandarin, and a tasty dinner that made us forget for a couple of hours the winter weather outside.