Hot pot is one of the favourite ways that Chinese like to savour food. One takes a metal pot and places it in the middle of the table, fills it with soup and then places fresh food around it. Everyone sits around the table putting food into the pot to cook while eating the food that’s already been cooked. This is what ‘eating hotpot’ is.
The soup used for cooking the food is called ‘guodi’ (soup base). If you want to eat hot pot you can go to the supermarket and buy a ready made soup base or you could also make a delicious soup base from fresh ingredients. (1) Once you have your base you can put in all sorts of food to cook. Meat, vegetables, seafood, tofu, mushrooms and fungi, noodles (8) (11) can all be used as ingredients in a hot pot. In addition, when eating hot pot you also need dipping sauces; once the food has been cooked in the soup you should dip it in a sauce for even more flavour.
Hot pot goes back several thousand years in China. (2) Different flavoured hot pots are popular in different parts of China. For example the numbing hot pot of Chongqing is a type of hot pot that is particularly famous. Its characteristic is that to the soup base are added many chillies and Szechuan peppers so it tastes (5) particularly spicy-hot. (3) In Beijing they like to eat Mongolian hot pot, i.e.mutton sliced thinly and added to the pot to cook. In the seafood hot pot of the Cantonese, the food (4) consists mainly of seafood ingredients. (9) In the northeast there is a type of pickled cabbage hot pot; it uses pickled cabbage to make the soup base.
As for the hot pot pots, there are also many kinds. For example the copper pots of oldtime (6) Beijing, the small soup pots of Guangzhou, the large steel pots of Sichuan and Chongqing and also the pots resembling squared paper for calligraphy practice used in all spicy hot pot (13). Nowadays more and more people like to eat hot pot. At parties, in order to satisfy the taste of even more people, split hotpots (10) have appeared (12) – half spicy hot half not spicy.
Chinese like to eat hot pot in winter because in winter the weather is cold and the steaming-hot hot pot can warm up our bodies. People eating hot pot together are generally family members or particularly close friends. To sit around in a circle with family or friends all eating a pot (7) of food together embodies the deep feeling that everyone has for each other. When eating hot pot the atmosphere is often extremely lively. The round hotpot also symbolises reunion.
1. The Chinese just has ‘food, foodstuffs’ but fresh ingredients is all that makes sense in English.
2. Using the word ‘history’ also reads ok but I suspect that my translation is pretty spot on.
3. (Translator’s note: it’s not as hot as many Chinese seem to think.)
4. Note this not so obvious word for ‘food’ – 吃的.
5. The dictionary is rather misleading here. This construction is similar to 看起来 and 听起来.
6. A tricky use of 老. Most often used with 北京 and 上海. 老北京 and 老上海 are almost set phrases.
7. 锅 used as a measure word.
8. Chinese seems to love to add etc. to the end of such a list. I think it’s a mistake to always include it in the translation.
9. The dictionary gives ‘food’, ‘edibles’.
10. The pot has a divider down the middle so one pot can contain two separate soup bases.
11. My dictionary bizarrely gives this as ‘cooked wheaten food’. This actually refers to noodles, dumplings and the like made from wheat flour.
12. Note this extra use of 有 indicating something appearing or occurring.
13. Yes, rather cumbersome. Luckily you can read Chinese. These pots likened to calligraphy practice paper are divided into nine sections. The reference to all spicy means that all nine sections contain a different sauce but all are spicy-hot.
by Robert Budzul