Pork and Chive Dumplings and Hot Pot

After suffering a fractured rib while skiing, and being subjected to another cold January Sunday, it was appropriately fitting that this would be a Dumpling and Hot Pot Sunday.  I've always heard of hot pot, but have never actually participated in one.  I had no idea what to expect.

I stopped by my local butcher and explained to him that I needed thinly sliced beef for cooking in a soup.  He was glad to educate me on the appropriate cut of beef for this application.  As I watched him slice a NY strip steak into thin medallions, I started day dreaming about the meal.  I gathered a few other ingredients from my neighborhood, and I was off to Yauriffic's home to start the dumpling making process.  While there are many different recipes for dumplings, we thought it would be best to improvise and use our own recipe.  A recipe is just a guideline, and it should not dictate the way you cook and enjoy food.  It's part of the learning experience.

While Yauriffic's mom was at church, we got to work making dumplings early enough so that they would be ready by the time the rest of her family showed up for hot pot later on that evening.  When her mom came home with her Aunt, they were watcing us fold dumplings while listening to jazz music in the background.  Her mom and Aunt were kind enough to bring us back some dim sum items that they had enjoyed after church.  We took a break and devoured some sticky rice, "maa tai gou" (water chestnut cake), and  "zi maa gyun" (black sesame rolls).  I love dim sum because of the different tastes and textures that you experience while eating.

When we sat down for Hot Pot, I was amazed to see how exciting this really was.  This felt like it was a sporting event.  Each person chooses from a wide array of ingredients such as (pea shoots, shrimp, watercess, fish balls, squid, chives, thinly sliced strip steak, etc) and then you simply let the ingredients cook in the simmering broth.  The broth becomes very complex with each addition that gets added.  When it comes time to fish your ingredients out from the broth, you top your bowls with scallion oil, soy sauce, XO sauce, and bean paste.  This can go on for hours, but it's hard to stop eating everything in front of you.  Yauriffic's mom said,  "James you can sit and relax", but i responded, "I'm too excited to sit."   

As I sat there on this cold Sunday evening, I got to be a part of a family that comes together to share their culinary rituals.  When you are fortunate to experience this, it can only add to the flavors that you enjoy.

Thank you to Yauriffic, her mom, her aunt who sternfully told me to finish all my dim sum earlier in the day, her uncle who setup the campfire burners, and her cousins who were my hot pot advisors during the meal, telling me the correct way to dunk and cook my selected ingredients.