It is winter season in the UAE and you can find people strolling and dining outside until 12midnight or 2 am. Since we have a cold weather, hot food is always a good choice. Hotpot (火锅) also known as Chinese fondue is one of the most famous food in China. Basically, it is a metal pot with either two kinds of broth (spicy & normal) mixed with chinese herbs. You will then let the broth boil and then add mixed meat, seafoods, and vegetables.
Last night, we had our Hotpot dinner at Xiao Hong Niu Restaurant (小红牛火锅/ Little Red Ox Hotpot) located in Salah Al Din just after Ansar Gallery. They have different Hotpot set (which has fixed price and fixed ingredients) depending on how many person will eat or you can customize your own hotpot (with prices depending on the ingredients). We chose the set which cost AED 138 (USD 38/PHP 1,850) and is good for 3 to 4 person. It has two separate broth, mixed dumpling, lettuce, water cabbage, shrimp, tofu, 3 kinds of mushrooms, seaweeds, meat, crab dumpling, squid and noodles. We opt not to eat rice except for Kuya. 😁 Then we ordered bottomless plum iced tea for AED 12 (USD 4/PHP 161).
Unlike in Xiao Wei Yang Hotpot which charges their customers AED 4 for each customer for the condiments, seasonings and hotpot sauces; Xiao Hong Niu serves them for free. So in a small bowl you can mix soy sauce, chili garlic oil or just chili sauce, crushed fresh garlic, chopped onion leaves or peanut sauce; then in your separate bowl, you can mix the broth and your sauces. You dont mix all the sauces in the metal hotpot since all of you are sharing the hotpot and the others might not like your choice of sauces so you mix yours in a separate bowl. Make sure that taste first the spicy broth prior to taking in a spoonful coz it might be too spicy for your taste. Also, when putting in the ingredients in the hotpot, you have to put the meat first, then mushroom, vegetables, seafoods except shrimp, dumplings then tofu and lastly the shrimp. If you are not sure of which sauce to mix, I recommend that you have soy sauce, onion leaves, fresh minced garlic, chili and chili oil and salt OR some opt to eat theirs with peanut sauce.
Besides it delicious flavors, I like the concept of hotpot because it brings friends and loved ones closer because you have the chance to eat, drink and have a good conversation during the course of meal. In addition, it is also healthy because of the way the food is cook and the nutritious ingredients. I remember when I went to Xiamen, they have this very over-the-top spicy hotpot and they said that once in a while they eat it coz it is good for bowel movement and at the same time, they make sure that the following days they will be just eating steamed vegetables and fish.
So what do you need to remember when having a hotpot?
1. Make sure you let the broth boil first before putting in the ingredients
2. Put in food that takes longer time to cook. For instance, meat, mushrooms, dumplings then followed by vegetables, tofu and then shrimp
3. Do not mix the broth with any condiments because others may not like it. So just get a separate bowl and scoop in some broth and then mix your sauces in your own bowl.
4. Careful not to immediately swallow or put the food in your mouth. They are extremely hot. I am sure you dont want to end up having a numb tongue.
5. You may use the ladle to transfer the broth from the hotpot to your bowl. And you may request for spoon aside from the chinese spoon for soup that they provide.
6. Yes, you may have rice. 😊 Put some mixed broth on top of your rice and it taste amazing.
7. Prepare tissue and handkerchief in case you cannot control the spice and you end up getting sweaty.
So what are you waiting for? Don’t hesitate to try on something new. Head on and find the perfect hotpot for you.