One thing I miss the most from my childhood hometown of Chongqing is the spicy beyond words hotpot that the city is famous for. This year, with mom living in town, my birthday feasting expanded to include a homemade version of this great interactive dining experience.
Considering the husband's low tolerance for spice, we put my dual compartment pot to good use. On one side, we loaded a traditional spicy soup base made from first frying untill fragrant aromatics such as ginger, chillies, Sichuan peppercorns, and soy paste, then boiling the base with beef broth, and finally incorporating into it Chinese cooking wine and fermented soy been paste. On the mild side, we made a simple but deeply flavored chicken stock from wings.
The cooking ingredients included all the family favorites, which meant mostly vegetables. We had loads of fresh pea shoots, spinaches, bamboo shoots, and all sorts of mushrooms. To boast our protein intake, we also threw in thinly sliced fish, shrimps, and pork.
One non-traditional ingredient I adore in the hotpot is this Cantonese style fishball. Fancier than the normal variety, this particular kind hides within its slightly chewy fish paste exterior a heart of juicy stewed beef. The hint of sweetness contrasted so well with the spiciness of the soup base, I almost ate the entire supply. No one tried to stop me. Being the birthday girl came with certain privileges. :)