RECIPE: MONGOLIAN HOT POT
Mongolian hot pot restaurants usually offer three kinds of seasoned broths: mild, spicy, and vegetarian. Often you can order a combination of two broths, served in a pot divided in the middle like a yin-yang symbol, with a pale yellow mild broth on one side and the flaming-hot-spicy red version on the other. The following recipe includes ingredients and instructions for both kinds of broth. For a vegetarian version, substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock.
Special equipment: A large metal pan, 12 inches in diameter and about 4 inches deep, for cooking the raw ingredients at the table. Asian cookware stores sell these as shabu-shabu pans, some with a metal divider in the middle for serving mild and hot-spicy broths in the same pan. You can also use a 12-inch skillet with deep sides, an electric wok, or even a fondue pot.
Heat source: Although you initially cook the broth in a large pot on your stove, you also need a heat source on the table to keep the broth simmering under the table pan that you cook the other ingredients in. A Sterno fondue warmer will work, but the best heat source is a one-burner gas or electric hot plate with a heat-control regulator. An electric wok has its own heat source.
Table setting: Place the pan on the heat source in the middle of the table. Each place setting should have an 8-ounce soup bowl, a rice bowl (optional), wooden (or wooden-handle) tongs or fondue forks, wooden (not metal or plastic) chopsticks, and a soupspoon. You’ll also need platters for the raw ingredients, a couple of soup ladles, large slotted spoons or wooden-handle wire dipping baskets (if you have them) for retrieving the cooked ingredients from the pan, and small bowls for the dipping sauces (optional).
Tips: Start cooking the broth and preparing the raw ingredients at least 2 hours before you plan to eat. Chill plenty of beer because cold beer is a great accompaniment to Mongolian Hot Pot.
Ingredients: To serve 4 people
For a Mild Broth alone, use the following proportions in a large stockpot. For a Spicy Broth alone, use all the ingredients in both the Mild Broth and Spicy Broth lists. For separate Mild and Spicy broths, divide the Mild Broth ingredients evenly in two separate 3-quart saucepans, and add HALF the Spicy Broth ingredients to one of the pans.
3 quarts chicken stock
16 whole garlic cloves, peeled
4 to 6 slices peeled fresh ginger, each 1/4-inch thick
2 whole nutmegs
2 tablespoons salt-preserved black beans
1/3 cup dried longan (about 20 longan)
10 dried red dates
6 whole black cardamom pods
1 tablespoon green cardamom pods
2 rounded tablespoons dried goji berries (about 80 berries)
2 tablespoons dried angelica root
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
12 green onions (scallions), white and green parts, cut into 3-inch lengths
30 to 40 dried hot red japon or de arbol chiles
3 tablespoons Szechuan peppercorns
2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1/4 cup sesame oil (or spicy red Chinese mala sauce)
Instructions: Combine all the broth ingredients except the green onions in a large stockpot on the stove (or divide them between two pots, if making both Mild and Spicy Broths). Before you add the dried spices (except the cumin and mustard seeds), rinse them in a sieve or colander. For the Spicy Broth, break half the dried hot peppers in half as you put them into the pot and leave the other peppers whole in the broth. Bring to the boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer while you prepare the other ingredients. Add the green onions just before serving.
Ingredients to Cook at the Table
1/2 to 3/4 pound ribeye steak
1/2 to 3/4 pound lamb shoulder
1/2 to 2/4 pound pork shoulder
1/2 to 3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
[OR any combination of 2 to 3 pounds of meat]8 Asian frozen fish balls, thawed
8 sticks surimi
4 to 8 fried tofu cakes (2-inches square)
2 ears pre-cooked corn on the cob, cut crosswise into quarters (or 8 ears of canned baby corn, rinsed)
1 pound baby bok choy, washed and separated into leaves
1/2 pound enoki mushrooms
4 ounces uncooked mung bean thread noodles (vermicelli)
Optional Side Dishes
4 cups cooked rice (1 cup per person, served in separate rice bowls)
Variety of dipping sauces (see below)
Instructions: While the broth is simmering, slice the meats as thinly as you can (partially frozen meats are easier to slice), or ask your butcher to slice the meats paper-thin when you buy them. Arrange each kind of meat attractively on separate platters, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until you are ready to eat.
Arrange the fish balls, surimi, and tofu on another platter, cover, and refrigerate. Arrange the corn, bok choy, and mushrooms on another platter. Put the dried noodles in a deep bowl and cover them with hot water.
To serve: Put on the table all the platters of ingredients to be cooked. Divide the cooked rice among the rice bowls. Carefully transfer the hot broth to the pan (or two pans) set on the heat source in the middle of the table. Adjust the heat so the broth continues to simmer gently.
To cook and eat: Each diner selects the foods that he or she wants, using tongs to transfer a small portion at a time to cook in the simmering broth. Start with the meats, which will add flavor to the broth. When each portion is cooked, use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer it to your bowl, then eat it with chopsticks, first dipping it in a sauce if desired (see Dipping Sauces, below). After all the meats and vegetables have been cooked, drain the noodles and divide them among each of the four bowls. Ladle enough hot broth over the noodles to cover them completely. Finish up your meal with this rich noodle soup.
Optional Dipping Sauces: Many hot pot restaurants also serve individual dipping sauces to add more seasoning to the ingredients after they’re cooked at the table. These dips can include dark and light soy sauces, soy-chile-sesame-oil sauce, Asian chile paste (sambal oelek), Chinese hot mustard, hoisin sauce, Chinese black vinegar, peanut sauce, and/or sriracha.