And now, ladies and gentlemen, for our monthly dose of wisdom from Mike the Gay Beer Guy. Be still our beating hearts...
We’ve all been there... you know, THAT couple that invites you over for a Fondue party. Cheese, oil, chocolate - it’s all the same. Little tiny forks sticking out of center bowl warned over a tiny burner. Well roll up your sleeves and get ready to impress your friends with this spiced up version! That’s right - HOT POT.
The Chinese version of dipped meats and vegis in a broth is loaded with all sorts of flavor; you can almost use anything you want. Be warned, though, it’s not for the light hearted... this is serious entertaining food that gets spicier and more intense as the evening goes on. To make it more of an event, instead of having a whole ton of food just for the two of us, T and I invited our friend (and fellow Hong Konger to T) over to partake in this Chinese winter staple (speaking of winter... as I write this it’s 65* outside in Kansas City... yeah, winter indeed).
The components: the chili oil, the broth, the sauce, and all the fixin’s... ready? Here we go!
Szechuan Peppercorns (found at the Asian Market)
Dried Chili Peppers
This should be done a day in advance. There’s no set quantitative value to how much chilis or oil to use. Use your judgement! Start by toasting your chilis in a dry pan until they develop some color but don’t burn; once done, set aside in a bowl. Using the same pan, start toasting your Szechuan Peppercorns. The peppercrcorns will release an amazing aroma, which seems like it’s a combination of hot spice, pepper (like cracked black pepper), and a sour/vinegary flavor. When the peppercorns have developed a nice flavor, combine it back with the chilis and roughly crush with a mortar and pestle (we actually don’t own one... a stainless bowl and a mini-rolling pin work just as well!). In the pan, combine the peppers and the peppercorns with enough oil to cover, heat through, and then set in a heat proof bowl to rest overnight.
Chicken (or Pork) Broth
The broth is simple... dice the radish into 1 inch pieces. Add the water and simmer... at some point taste the broth for flavor, adjust the seasoning. After you’ve sufficiently simmered the broth, add the chili oil to taste (we found that it was more pungent rather than spicy... but use your own judgement!). This is a great time to discuss the vessel you should use: a flat-bottomed pan a few inches deep to be able to simmer enough broth to cook the fixings of your choice. As you can see form the pictures, we have a mini butane fueled stove that sits in the middle of our table... it’s kinda similar to a camping stove, but safe for indoor use. Always be safe when making hot pot!!!! At some point before serving, you’ll want to add some of your fixings to the broth, not only to enhance flavor, but to give them a head start in the cooking process... but we’ll get into the details after the sauce.
OK, here we go... a quick warning. From here on, you might be dealing with raw and cooked-slightly-rare ingredients... At no point during this meal did I ever think I was going to get any form of food poisoning. We used fresh ingredients, which certainly helps to curve the nerves. But use your judgement! My thoughts are, especially being Mike TGBG, that if you drink enough alcohol you’ll either kill everything living in your system... or at least you’ll never remember being sick!
The Dipping Sauce & Fixin’s:
Chinese BBQ Paste
Now everyone get your individual bowl. Crack your egg into your bowl, add a dab of BBQ Paste and some soy sauce, and swirl it all around with your chop sticks (you know... chop sticks, right?!). You’re going to put your fixings into the simmering broth, let them cook to your liking, and plop them into your sauce. And then eat of course!!! When you get your broth into the middle of your table (on the flame) it’s probably a good time to add whatever long-cooking items... we had fish-balls, Chinese Meatballs, and mushrooms. Also on the table (and we had EVERYTHING there): beef, chicken, prawns, squid, muscles, noodles, cabbage, tofu, fermented tofu, more mushrooms... you name it. This can be as complicated or as simple as you want... just prep everything in advance and instant HOT POT!!!!
For this evening, I had on hand an Imperial Mild that I had brewed as a kit from Northern Brewer (http://www.northernbrewer.com). For those who don’t know, a Mild (as opposed to the hoppier “Bitter”) is an English Pub beer, usually about 3% or so ABV (it’s actually really hard to find one commercially... I know of no one in the US who makes one or imports one, and I’ve heard it’s very rare in Europe too!). This recipe calls for the same ingredients, just a little higher in alcohol, at about 5.5% ABV. Full of malty flavor and some caramel sweetness, this beer paired PERFECTLY with the hot and spicy Hot Pot. For my winter brewing, I plan most beers around extract recipes so I can brew indoors without having to stand in the outside cold for hours... here is the recipe just as I made it. Maybe over the summer I can plan a full-mash version!
6 lbs Munton’s Amber Dry Malt Extract
1 lb Corn Sugar
4 oz each English Dark Crystal, Extra-Dark Crystal, and Pale Chocolate Malts
2 oz Victory Malt
2 ½ oz Fuggles at 60 minutes
½ oz Fuggles at 15 min
WY1187 - Ringwood Ale Yeast
Method - Back to Basics... partial wort boil on the stove
Crush and steep your specialty malts (in a mesh bag) in about a gallon of 160* water for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, collect about 4 gallons in your kettle as you drain your bag of crushed grains (don’t squeeze out every last bit of liquid!!! Just simply drain the bag of grains over the kettle! When the bag doesn’t drip, throw it away). Off heat, add the extract to the water, stir to dissolve well, and bring the wort (solution of sugars) to a boil. When you achieve boil, add your 60 min hops (you can cover the kettle to help a boil come about, but then the lid should be off until you’re ready to cool the wort); boil for 45 min, add your 15 minute hops and corn sugar, and continue to boil for the remaining 15 minutes. When the hour boil is over, cool the kettle in an ice bath in the sink (or bath tub or whatever). While the kettle is cooling, prepare your fermentation vessel... sanitize, sanitize, SANITIZE!!! The wort in the kettle is essentially sterile (although there are spores and other potential contaminants still in solution, the nasty and potentially beer-hazardous stuff has been thoroughly killed off) and you want to give your yeast the optimum and clean environment to work! When the wort is cool to the touch (ideally around 60*-70*, but any temperature which won’t kill your yeast will work), pour it into your fermentation vessel; food-grade plastic buckets are easy, but those with carboys will need either a friend and a funnel or to siphon. Your fermenter should be able to hold 6 ½ gallons of liquid... when the wort is in the fermenter, top off with clean spring water or previously boiled and cooled tap water to about 5 ½ gallons; you will have about a gallon of open head space. From here, the easiest thing to do is just pitch your yeast and cover the vessel... plastic buckets can accommodate a sanitized airlock in the lid or use a sanitized piece of foil for your carboy (I only use stoppers and airlocks for any beer I’ll leave in the fermenter for longer than 2 weeks). My procedure is a little more controlled: I make sure my wort has cooled to 60*, pitch my yeast, and then raise the temperature to 65* (assuming the temperature inside the carboy will be around 67*-68*) through the use of a heat wrap and temperature controller. Ferment until the beer has visibly stopped moving and the majority of yeast has fallen out of suspension... and then wait another 3 or 4 days after that!! Keg or bottle and carbonate VERY low... I actually prefer this beer almost still. If you bottle and add priming sugar, use ⅓ to ½ of what you would normally add. For you keggers out there (my included), just put enough head pressure on the keg to serve!
- Mike TGBG