Wednesday, 13 June 2012

beijing and my hotpot/steamboat obsession

It seems weird to blog about hotpot in the middle of a Beijing summer (currently 27C though, so not too bad), but I just had one on Sunday so it’s fresh in my mind. And I love them so. 
individual hotpot
I’ve spent years of my life obsessed with hotpot (or steamboat) as the weather cools, and trying to convince my mother that the weather is cool enough, no really, to have a steamboat or two running in the house. After going vego, steamboat at home is still possible, but no longer do I find myself able to steamboat out and about due to the preponderance for good chicken stock in the soup. Beijing, though, is filled with hotpot restaurants of different varieties, and the cheapest, the most tackiest of chains, are so cheap they don’t put animal products in their soups – the cheapest of all are just water and salt and a piece of ginger and an inch of leek.  There’s Little Sheep, and Xiabu Xiabu, both just down the road from my house, where you can choose your soups spicy or not spicy; and at Little Sheep they give you popcorn when you enter (not vegan, maybe not vego) and make you pay extra for the sesame dipping sauce. 
delicious delicious luck
Most places I frequent you share the pot, which is fine when I tell my friends in advance that the pot will be filled only with tofu, vegetables, noodles and mushrooms. Inevitably, we’ll get to the end of the order, and the waitperson will look at me. 不要肉, I’ll say, don’t want meat, before they have a chance to ask.  I love a good hotpot, and it can be pretty easy, even if you’re in China and don’t speak Mandarin, because the menus are almost always big and glossy with pictures for every plate you can order, and there’s usually only one type of item on a plate – meat OR bok choy OR tofu, which makes it easy to get nothing but vego things. 

However there are things to be aware of, as a veg*n. There’ll be sauces floating around, for dipping – I’m not a big user of the sauces, but they’ll sometimes not necessarily be vego, they’ll be cut with something fish-based. A lot of places, especially fancy places, fill their soup with animal products, so you have to specifically ask if it’s water or stock in the pot.  When I return to Melbourne I have plans to start investigating as many steamboat restaurants as I can, to see if I have any options. I know that Enlightened Cuisine and Vegie Mum are both doing a steamboat for winter, which I look forward to trying  And if I don’t, I’m just going to have to buy one and start having 火锅 parties at my house. 


pfctdayelise said...

Hotpot is so great. I had some in Melbourne a little while ago at this place - . They have a buffet which is great value and great fun. I can't remember if I confirmed that the broth is vege stock, might have to go back and check!

Anonymous said...

what beautiful dishes! i've never had hotpot, but i'd love to try!

Simon said...

I'm craving hotpot after reading this! But am I the only one to notice the "interesting" name on the hot plate and plate? Hehe

steph said...

@pfctdayelise and it's no hardship for you to join me on my tour of melbourne's hotpots, right?

@glutenfreehappytummy - easy to ensure is gf, too!

@simon it says 'fuching'! but i did a double take, too.

Simon said...

ah yes! actually i recall seeing that brand on victoria st in richmond also. pretty sure i found it really amusing that time also.. hehe
ps, love your blog!