Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's Eve

I'm not sure when it started, but our family has a tradition of making Chinese food on New Year's eve. These past few years it evolved to having Mongolian Hot Pot. When possible, we invite guests, but this year, neither of the families we invited was able to come.

To make Hot Pot, you first need some sort of electric skillet to put on the table. One year a friend gave us a real electric hot pot. When we have company, we set up two tables, and use our electric skillet as well. You fill it with chicken broth. You keep some water nearby to add when the broth boils down.

Next you prepare the foods you will eat. We like Nappa Cabbage, small Bok choy, cubed Daikon radish, and spinach. We also cut up some Tofu, mushrooms, and straw mushrooms. We also use some very thin rice noodles. We also had two side dishes: fried spring rolls, and sliced dried tofu with cilantro and sesame oil.

We have an electric meat slicer, so slice up some pork very thin. Sometimes we have shrimp, but our kids don't like seafood, so we only have that if the kids are eating at a separate table.

The sauce is probably the key ingredient to the whole meal. We have bought several different types of sauce to use in the past, but our favorite is Sha Chia paste. It comes in a silver jar. We mix that with some soy sauce and chopped cilantro. Chinese friends of ours also add an egg, but you don't have to.

We usually start out by putting in some of the daikon radish (it takes the longest to cook), tofu, and meat. The vegetables cook very quickly, so you only put them in just before you are ready to eat them. Some people are probably sticklers and insist that you only eat what you personally put in the pot, but our family takes a community view and just keeps adding whatever ingredient the pot is low on. You don't have to let it cook very long before it is ready to eat. Sometimes if you fill the pot too full, you have to put the lid on until the heat comes back up again.

When you take the food out to eat, you dip it in your own bowl of sauce. I think even a cow patty would probably taste good with this sauce on it. Some people wait until the end to cook the noodles, then have a bowl of noodle soup. But we like to eat the noodles as we go. The thin rice noodles cook very quickly.

The most interesting part of this meal is that it takes a long time to eat, so you actually spend time enjoying the food and each other's company. It is a great meal to have when the weather is cold.

Happy New Year Everyone! 新年快乐

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