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Hot(pot) Traditions

Back at home, my friend and I organize hotpots about four times a year, and we’ve optimized our shopping strategy. The local Chinese market opens at 10 a.m., cash only (two facts we learned the hard way, multiple times), so we go at 10 and whip through our shopping list: fish balls, shrimp balls, beef balls, beef, vermicelli noodles, fish tofu, tofu, straw mushrooms, napa cabbage, soup base, and, most importantly, lychee jellies. We’ve modified the list over the years based on consumption observations — spinach and regular mushrooms were rejected, as were fish balls with meat inside, while fish tofu and kamaboko became staples. We spend about $40 every time, and can feed up to 8 people, with minimal leftovers. We even sold one of our hotpots for over $100 at the senior auction. Here’s the fish product spread from the last hotpot we organized:

Though I didn’t grow up eating hotpot, it has become one of my go-to social events. We sit around, throw stuff in the pot, arbitrarily decide that it’s done, and gobble it down, talking in the meantime. Afterwards, we sing karaoke while slurping down lychee jellies and bemoaning our stuffed stomachs. Imagine my delight when I heard that Avery House also has hotpotty traditions!

To celebrate Lunar New Year, Avery Soc Team organized a hotpot event for the house. We had to sign up ahead of time, and Soc Team bought all the ingredients from a local Asian market (I’m guessing 99 Ranch). Several emails sent out just before the event warned us to BYOR(rice), B(bowls), U(utensils), D(drinks), and S(sauces), so I packed some microwaved microwaveable rice, two bowls, disposable and non-disposable chopsticks, spoons, soy sauce, and oyster sauce. Everything else and more was waiting for us there, including a wide array of unknown solids of marine origins:

Tables were set up with burners, water-filled pots, meat, straw mushrooms, and tofu, and a wide array of vegetables was also available:

One of my friends that I gave rice to back in the day finally made use of the stash to feed the riceless:

We flavored the water with oyster sauce, and started putting things in: