Hot Pot!

If you ever travel to Beijing and want to try some traditional Chinese food, hot pot is a dish you should definitely consider! Comparable to fondue, hot pot is a delicious meal that can be shared with either a large group or a select few individuals. Either way, if you decide to go to a […]

If you ever travel to Beijing and want to try some traditional Chinese food, hot pot is a dish you should definitely consider! Comparable to fondue, hot pot is a delicious meal that can be shared with either a large group or a select few individuals. Either way, if you decide to go to a hot pot restaurant, be sure to put aside plenty of time to thoroughly enjoy it. When people are planning to travel to Beijing or any other city in China, they are typically skeptical about the food and expect it to be the opposite of delicious, but hot pot is a dish that will easily change that mindset. Hot pot is one of my favorite dishes that I have tried so far since arriving in Beijing.

When you order hot pot, you can expect to have several “soup” options, which is what you will be cooking your food in. The flavors range from being milder to slightly more spicy or you can get two different kinds of soup flavors depending on the restaurant. I opted for a spicier soup, which was very tasty with a lot of flavor. After ordering the soup to cook your food in, you can order meat, vegetables, or a plethora of other Chinese cuisines. Depending on what you order, you also can make your own dipping sauce. Due to the fact that I ordered shrimp dumplings, I mixed a seafood sauce with garlic and onion, but because I was cooking my food in a spicy soup, I found that my sauce was unnecessary. However, there are many options when making your dipping sauce. Your dish can be as flavorful or spicy as you wish.

Hot pot has been in existence for over one thousand years and has consequently become popular in all areas of China. Depending on the region, you can find different styles of hot pot. The main ways in which hot pot differ have a lot to do with the ingredients used. In different regions, there are differences in which ingredients are available and which ones are not. In Beijing, I found it surprising that we were unable to find any sort of chicken on the menu, but there were many different variations of beef. Although the translations as to what things are in English may seem to be a bit off, do not let that deter you from trying something. For instance, on the menu they had an option they translated as “urinating beef balls,” which sounds really strange, but we gave it a try and it was just a juicy meatball and was absolutely delicious. Do not be afraid to be a little adventurous, but feel free to play it safe as well.

Similar to most Chinese dishes, hot pot is delectable and will not be a disappointment. When the decision is made to travel to Beijing, the decision to try hot pot should occur simultaneously! Since arriving in Beijing, all of the food I have had the opportunity to try has been amazing, but I have yet to try something I enjoy as much as hot pot.

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Contents May be Hot

On June 14, 2012, in Restaurants & Food, Tips & Ideas, by Jack Li

Like many a weary traveler I was exhausted after the final leg of all of my China flights.  Once I landed I had to travel to Beijing, which was a traffic laden journey.  When I finally arrived in my apartment after a full day of traveling, I desperately wanted some water.  I could neither speak […]

Like many a weary traveler I was exhausted after the final leg of all of my China flights.  Once I landed I had to travel to Beijing, which was a traffic laden journey.  When I finally arrived in my apartment after a full day of traveling, I desperately wanted some water.  I could neither speak nor read any Chinese at the time, but the water filter had two levers.  I tried the first, and it was hot water.  My tragically Western sensibilities led me to assume that the other lever was cold, and boy was I wrong.  The other level was actually ungodly hot, and I still have the burn on my hand to prove it.  Over the course of my time here I’ve realized that there is almost no cold non-bottled water in Beijing.

Water options in the office

You can have water at any temperature as long as it's hot

This may seem trivial, but think about how much we drink cold water in the West, be it at restaurants, from water fountains, or directly from the faucet.  After a bit of research and asking around, I’ve come up with what I believe to be the main reasons for the plethora of hot water here in China:

Health/Digestion Concerns:

Hot water is generally accepted as being good for you, helping with digestion, helping to break down oil in your system, and being better for you than cold water since hot water is closer to your body’s temperature.  While a cursory Google search disproved most of these statements, there is nothing wrong with hot water either, so who cares.

Water Quality:

In China the tap water is not drinkable, and some theorize that the taste for hot water was developed in response to the need to boil water before drinking it.  This may or may not be true, but the story has a nice ring to it.

Caution: Contents May Be Hot (Coffee Cup #20), 2003 Fred Lynch

Caution: Contents May Be Hot (Coffee Cup #20), 2003 Fred Lynch

Tea/Noodles:

Since hot water is readily available, it is very easy to make tea or instant noodles wherever you are.  Instant noodles are much more than a dorm room staple here, and can be found at every convenience store in China.  Back in the US it was always an ordeal to heat water for tea, whereas here I can make it on the fly.

Be careful what you drink in your China travel, because if like me you are used to cold water you will be greeted with a big surprise.  Take it in stride, get used to the smaller portions and drinking your hot water slowly.  In less than a week I’ve been cured of my tendencies to down massive quantities of water due to necessity, and have grown to accept hot water instead of cold.  Give it a try, embrace the conveniences it brings, and ignore the rest.  Live how they do on the other side of the world, and you’ll end up with a better understanding of yourself.

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