The best way to describe hot pot is to call it a Chinese version of fondue. It’s basically a pot of boiling broth that you throw meat and veggies in until cooked and then eat and drink the broth. Basic idea. Very delicious result.
A few nights ago, for my very first ever hot pot experience, one of my Chinese friends took me to a fancy schmancy hot pot resto called Chamate. I ordered the mushroom broth (which was chock full of the most earthy and delicious mushrooms I’ve ever tasted) and an assortment of veggies and noodles to go into the pot. Sadly, I forgot to bring my camera-an even sadder fact once you read the story that follows.
After we’d ordered our dishes, the waiter came by to light the burners under the pots. He generously doused each burner with a hefty bit of lighter fluid and lit each one. But, when he got to mine, instead of igniting a steady flame, the entire burner blew up! A giant flame engulfed the table and somehow caught the bottle of lighter fluid which immediately morphed into a fireball and fell from the waiter’s hands. By this time, my friend and I had leapt out of our chairs, ran from the table and watched from a safe distance several feet away while half a dozen servers smothered the flame (which was now on the floor in the middle of the restaurant) with wet towels. It took several minutes to extinguish. Normally, after an incident like that, I would have left the restaurant in search of something a bit….safer. But, we were hungry and tired and decided to stick it out. The meal was enjoyable enough and there were no further incidents. But the shocker to me was that nary a server or manager came over to the table to; 1) apologize or, 2) offer to pay for at least a portion of the bill. This was an upscale place so I expected better service. We could have easily been seriously injured, so I think that, at the very minimum, an apology was in order.
So, now you can see why forgetting my camera was such a disappointment. I could have taken some great shots of the servers crouching on the ground, smothering the flame-oh well. I know this doesn’t make up for it, but later in the week I visited a middle-of-the-road hot pot place (not nearly as upscale) and got some pictures so you can at least see what hot pot is like. This place had the pots safely placed down inside the table so no chance of a fireball exlosion-whew!
Btw, I should probably mention my friend’s brother’s reaction to the whole scene which was, “that’s crazy…hot pot in the summer.”
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