Bubbling ferociously, steam rising from its top, Inner Mongolia’s hot pot is one of a kind. How many meals can claim to offer both the complex taste of a delicious soup with the simple fun of a kindergarten art project? For that is what hot pot in Inner Mongolia ultimately is, a work of art.
The meal begins with patrons picking the broth they want in their hot pot, the canvas if you will, upon which the masterpiece will be created. Do you prefer spicy hot? A hit of garlic? Maybe something with a whisper of fruit? Pick your poison Picasso, they are all deadly delicious. With your broth chosen it is time to role up your sleeves, tie on your smock, and really get to work. Your first medium will be a wide selection of protein, beef and lamb sliced paper thin, and delightful shrimp balls just to add a hint of the sea. After cooking these morsels, fine tune them with an array of flavors. Begin with a peanut sauce base and then mix to your heart’s content with either fiery hot sauce, fresh scallions, or a truly delightful herb infused vinegar.
What will be the background of these succulent meats? How about a few swatches of green? Tart spinach, smoky bok choy, gentle cabbage, and musky mushrooms are all great additions. Once these have been dipped and wilted, take ’em up a notch a la Emeril Lagasse and combine them with the sauces you have used for the meats. At this point your portrait is really coming together, if only you could some how soak up all the tastes from your boiling masterpiece and enjoy their rich flavor! Oh but you can.
Noodles served at the end of the meal provide the gallery for your mouth to patronize. Added last, but certainly not least, the noodles benefit from the flavors of everything you have combined in your hot pot throughout the meal to provide a truly stunning finish, with layer, upon layer of rich taste. Treat yourself to hot pot the next time you are in Inner Mongolia and see for yourself why this meal is truly a work of art.
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Photos by WildChina and Chowtimes.com