Beijing Hot Pot! (With Super Beef and Chicken Feather-Shaped Vegetable)
My very best meal in China was a Mongolian Hot Pot, well, actually, a Beijing Hot Pot since it's popular there too and they offer local ingredients to make the dish their own. That evening my boss and I went AWOL from an Italian Delegation group dinner and Shanghaied (pun intended) a China expert to take us to an authentic restaurant. What do I mean by authentic? A place that would seem normal to a middle-class Beijing resident. Pier Luca, our hijaked tour guide asked a cab driver (oh what an asset it is to speak the language!) to drive us to a good place to eat. It was that simple.
The menu came in Chinese to Pier Luca and he asked if there was an English-language version as well. Oh what fun that menu was! 5 pages of culinary adventure and hilarious/adorable Sino-English vocabulary choices. Have a close look at this menu page. (Sorry for the poor photo quality) We passed on the "artefactitious crab", "sheep's pizzle" and "ox throat" and went straight for the "super beef" and lamb. My boss wanted to make sure that we ended up with something relatively familiar. For vegetables, we chose some bok choy, mushrooms, cellophane noodles and my favorite, "chicken feather-shaped vegetable". See above. We had initially laughed at it but, when it arrived, we saw the utter logic and descriptiveness of the name, don't you agree? So we began to pick up slices of the raw meat and veggies and drop them into the boiling broth. We'd leave them in just until cooked (less than 30 seconds for the meat to a couple minutes for the bok choy) and then enjoy it hot out of the pot.Last but not least, the fabulous dipping sauce (sorry again for the photo quality) that flavored everything with hints of peanut, sesame, soy, chili and I'm sure a lot of other things. It was fabulous!