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When Jeff’s email blast arrived in my inbox announcing the next Ambassador Dinner — an evening of traditional Asian hot pot dining with Kian Lam Kho — it took me about fifteen seconds to send in my RSVP.
I love hot pot. It’s something I grew up doing with my family at home (somewhat infrequently, but with zest — usually in conjunction with a slew of sweet and savory fondue nights, the better to make use of the cooking equipment needed for such endeavors).
The concept of Hot Pot is simple: a pot of hot broth sits in the center of the table on a burner which keeps the broth simmering. Everyone at the table partakes in adding a variety of uncooked items (like veggies, meat, seafood, dumplings, and noodles), and fishing them out as they’re ready to eat. Since most of the ingredients aren’t seasoned, additional flavor is added via the broth during cooking, as well as with dipping sauces after cooking. At the end, everyone slurps up the remaining broth, which has been infused with the flavors of everything that’s been cooked in it throughout the night.
For me, Hot Pot embodies some of my favorite aspects of food: it’s engaging, it’s interactive, it’s social, and it’s a group effort, where everyone gets to be part of the cooking process, play with their food, and eat for hours and hours. And, if the chef on duty happens to be Kian, a master of traditional Chinese Cooking, it’s really, exceptionally delicious.
Kian and his partner, Warren prepared a magical night for the 25 lucky RSVP’ers, on Veronica’s rooftop in Long Island City, Queens. All the ingredients were freshly prepared and thoughtfully presented on beautiful tableware.
Before the dinner, Kian prepped in the kitchen and held a cooking demonstration: making Southern-style egg dumplings. Kian had already prepared a batter of egg and cornstarch, which he then cooked and filled with a mixture of pork, scallions, and sesame oil, and sealed with finesse. According to Kian, the egg dumplings, which are often served in soup, are a common item at Taiwanese Chinese New Year Celebrations because of their golden color.
We onlookers also gave it a shot, with mixed results. Kian makes it look so easy! Apparently they are traditionally made in a shallow ladle over a flame — we definitely would have failed.
Okay, okay. Enough with the teasers. Time for dinner!
Before digging in, we each made our own personal dipping sauce, a combination of wet ingredients: peanut sauce, sesame paste, sesame oil, chili oil, soy sauce, black vinegar, and chili paste, as well as additional goodies: toasted sesame seeds, fresh garlic, fried garlic, scallions, cilantro, pickled peppers, and fermented tofu.
Then, we divided ourselves up into tables, each one with a pot divided in half to accomodate two broths: one Szechuan-infused, and one Chrysanthemum-infused. I know, I know. Aren’t you jealous already?
Then it was time to get cooking!
Thank you to Jeff, for organizing, Veronica, for hosting, and especially Kian, for sharing such an amazing night with us and stuffing us with such delicious morsels. It truly was an experience. I can’t wait to go home for the holidays and have hot pot with my family.
See all the photos from the World to Table flickr set here.
About the Ambassador Program: The Ambassador Program has one expert of a cuisine lead a group of people for their dream meal in their favorite eating environment. The menu is entirely chosen by the ambassador. Guests pay for the ambassador’s portion and the results are written up somewhere on the internet. Everyone wins.
About Me: I like stories, science, and snacks. You can find me on the interwebs at Rocketships, Jellyfish.