May 13, 2013

Hot Pot, Can't Stop....a Culinary Experience

Do you know what Chinese Hot Pot is and where you can find it in Paris?

Chinese Hot Pot simmering on tabletop stove

Well, you’re not alone.  I didn't either.  At least, not before I recently went to one of WICE’s social events.     You might not know this, but in addition to classes, WICE also offers a variety of free social events for members. 

Stove tabletops
A couple of weeks ago, I attended the WICE event: Hot Pot - Can’t Stop.   Although I had never heard of Chinese Hot Pot cooking before, with this catchy title, I could not resist giving it a try.  On one of the rare
hot and sunny days in April, seven of us WICE Members met for lunch at a small restaurant called Au Ciel, in the 11th arrondissement.

Chinese Hot Pot (also known as Chinese Fondue) is a soup-like dish in which you cook all of the ingredients yourself, at your own pace while you’re eating.  It’s been around for over 1000 years and can be cooked with various combinations of all kinds of vegetables, seafood, meats, and noodles. 

At the restaurant, the conversation started off easily with the typical ex-pat conversation about where we all came from and why we had chosen to live in France.   Since most of us had never met each other before, it was fascinating to hear each person’s unique path to Paris.  After ordering, the server came to each of us, leaned over, and pressed some hitherto unseen buttons in front of us to turn on our individual cooking surfaces.  As newbies to the Chinese Hot Pot experience, we hadn't realized that our shiny black glass table where we had been casually resting our elbows on was also our stovetop.  

Table overflowing with ingredients  
Next, we each received a large metal pot filled with a savory broth, a plate of green leafy vegetables with uncooked noodles, a plate of sliced meats, and rice.   Once the broth started to boil, we could add our
ingredients as we pleased and cook them to our own liking.  Mid-meal the server came walking by with a humongous metal tea pot, stopping at every table.  Now I’m used to Chinese restaurants serving tea in small, dainty ceramic cups, so I wondered, “Just how thirsty does she think we are?”

Actually, she wasn't serving tea at all.   She was offering refills of the soup base for all our hot pots.  Because you let the pot simmer the entire time that you’re cooking and eating, the broth slowly evaporates.  You need the broth refills to continue cooking until you've had enough to eat. 

By the end of this meal, I was stuffed.  I’m definitely going to go back to try a new combination of ingredients from the extensive menu of Hot Pot choices.   This WICE event successfully delivered its promise of a good meal.  As an added bonus, I discovered a new neighborhood to explore and met some pretty interesting people.    How cool is that, for only 9€80 (the price of the lunch menu)!

Next time you’re looking for something different to do, try one of WICE’s free social events.

Post and  photos by Veronica Kugler