Some tightly wound, ancient DNA thread must still exist in humankind, beckoning and weaving us together around a simmering, communal pot of soup; especially in winter. And when a tribal, family member or friend ventures forth tossing a new ingredient into this fragrant brew, it’s a reminder that in these cold, frigid months, we’re not alone.
According to Wikipedia, the origin of Asian Hot Pot traces its roots back over 1000 years ago to Northern China. Hot Pot may have been primitive mankind’s version of prozac. Through the bitter hardship of winter, the consistent demands of an active fire would banish negative thoughts; the hot soup rekindling and nourishing spirits until early buds appeared in spring.
Most provinces in Asia seem to have some version and name for Hot Pot. In Singapore and Malasia, for example, Hot Pot is known as Steamboat.
I wish I could report that my first experience with this marvelous concoction was after a trek through the Tibetan highlands of China. My experiences with this most ancient of soups, however, have been following several on-line recipes and slurping it down at restaurants specializing in Hot Pot.
This recipe is a mosaic of favorite flavors from several versions of Hot Pot I’ve tried. If one were pressed to pinpoint a particular region where these particular Hot Pot ingredients would be served, it would be Korea; Korea because of the kim chee. If dining in Korea, most likely your meals would be served with this ubiquitous pickled cabbage accompaniment.
I love kim chee, but it’s unctuous, pungency can be an acquired taste. Cooking the kim chee in this recipe, to my palate, gives the soup an inimitable, pleasant, spicy-sour flavor. Fresh sliced Napa cabbage is less intense and could be substituted for the kim chee in the recipe.
I’ve had Hot Pot with different styles of Asian noodles but I’m using the flavorful and nutritious, gluten-free soba noodles in this recipe. Udon, ramen or other Asian noodle would be excellent substitutes for the soba.
Invite your tribe to warm up around your version of Hot Pot. Encourage them to bring an item, some spinach, shrimp or pork perhaps, to toss into the bubbling brew. Double or triple the recipe. Leftovers are a bonus.