Spring is here but it will take some time for us to thaw out after the long cold winter. Much like the ice and snow in our Chicago streets that are still slowly melting away. Well, I’ve got a quick remedy for us Chicagoans: Hot Pot in Chinatown!
Never heard of it? You will soon! The next time you visit Chinatown, you will begin to notice hotpot signs everywhere. Lao Sze Chuan was the first one I remember to offer hotpot in Chinatown, but now – just about every restaurant offers it. I often go for hotpot with my group of Chinatown girlfriends with a couple of bottles of wine (byob) and we would sit for hours on end. This time, I took my good friend Theresa Carter of The Local Tourist for her first hotpot try and we landed at Sweet Station.
As intimidating as it may look to some, it is actually a pretty simple and painless process. First off, you’ll be handed a menu where you can check-off to choose ingredients starting from the kind of broth you would like. I always get the half mild and half spicy broth. Then you choose the kind of seafood, meats, vegetables, and noodles. I always make sure to order beef, fish balls, mussels, shrimp, tofu, and shanghai or ramen for noodles. For vegetables – I’m a big fan of the Enoki mushroom, watercress, spinach, yau choy, and Chinese mushrooms. There will be a couple of different dipping sauces like sesame, satay, chili, and minced garlic, too. You simply add each of the ingredients on the boiling pot and make sure to season what you chose from the pot with a mixture of the dipping sauces to enjoy.
A year ago I had the pleasure in trying hot pot where it all supposedly began: in Chongqing, China. Just as I had imagined, most of the ingredient offerings here in US are catered more to our American taste buds. The US version seem milder in dipping spice sauces, and the choices of meats and vegetables are quite different, too. There’s even a difference from Chongqing’s hotpot to Beijing’s. No mater what the differences are, what matters most is the pleasure of company and warmth we share together. And over yummy food, is a big plus!
A photo posted by MJ Tam (@mjtam) on