Attempting to juggle the blog (The Afterimage), sketchbook, camera and a small forest's worth of university readings around Sydney.
Published June 10th 2013
Warming, simple and guilt-free winter dinner ideas
It's cold, it's raining and the perfect time for Chinese hotpot, an easy, healthy and warming winter dinner idea. Best of all - no experience with Chinese cuisine is required. For those of you uncomfortable with communal eating, don't worry. Hotpot is hygienic as long as you're careful with preparations.
1. Use good quality, fresh raw ingredients and wash thoroughly when preparing.
2. Try to add ingredients only when the soup is boiling or at least when the soup/water is hot.
3. Make sure you use separate chopsticks/utensils when handling raw meat and seafood. Do not put raw and cooked food on the same plate.
4. Make sure the meat and seafood is thoroughly cooked before eating.
5. If you're iffy about everyone rummaging around the pot, you can put the food you want in a hotpot scoop and let it sit in the scoop until it's cooked.
6. If you're able to, use a sectioned pot to keep meat and vegetables separate to avoid foods being affected by strong lamb or seafood flavours.
A bowl, chopsticks and scoop is all you need. You can substitute the scoop for a spoon.
How complex your hotpot is depends on you. Most – if not all – of the following ingredients can be found at your local Asian grocery.
Soup – My mother loves using radish and pork bone soup, but any mild flavoured soup or stock will do. Replenish the water with more soup or with boiling water and a bit of oil if you run out.
Sauce – This is perhaps your most important ingredient – all the food should be dipped in the sauce. You can find pre-made sauces at your grocery or look online (or use your mother's ancient secret recipe sauce passed down for generations). Add chilli and spring shallots to season.
Vegetables – Prepare plenty of leafy vegetables for a light, healthy dinner - I mean a large bowl for each vegetable. You can pretty much put anything in but my favourites are lettuce, watercress and baby spinach.
Soy products – Great blocks of tofu are a great way to fill the stomach and leaving you guilt-free. Cook the tofu first as they take awhile. I also recommend tofu chips by Nhu' Quyuh and dried bean curd sticks (soak in water and then cut into smaller squares).
Meat & Seafood – You can buy these frozen, pre-made beef, fish and sea urchin balls at your local Asian mart. Defrost and cut them in half to cook (not the sea urchin balls– they have roe inside). Be careful not to eat too much – as delicious as they are, they are relatively high in sodium and fat.
Frozen basa fish fillets are fantastic seafood ingredients – boneless and melt-in-your-mouth. Cuttlefish, prawns and scallops are also great ingredients. You can also buy thinly sliced hotpot lamb and beef and special soup stock (Little Sheep Mongolian Hotpot is popular for lamb).