Our guest writer, Lionel the HotPotMan (HPM) first strike (read about him here). His immense experience in eating hotpots, stemming from his time in Beijing is captured in this 4-part series.
Steamboat Strategy Part 1:
My humble steamboat strategy: always put the white cabbage and corn in first. White cabbage will take the longest to cook and the corn will sweeten the soup. Meats wise, put in this order: pork, chicken then beef. Pork takes the longest to cook and beef can be 'shabu-ed'.
In terms of starches, I recommend putting vermicelli and other noodles only towards the end of the meal. Use the slotted ladle and hold the noodles down with the soup ladle. Always make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot coz it will burn and the whole pot is befouled. If u choose black seaweed, then u have to be responsible for mitigating it's ability to 'innervate' every other thing in the pot thereby forcing everyone else to eat seaweed with u.
And the secret ingredient to make a dipping sauce awesome is cumin. If given a choice between buffet and the more expensive ala carte menu, my experience tells me that ROI is optimized by choosing the buffet and then ordering specific premium items from the ala carte selection.
Look out for Part 2 where our resident HPM talks about working with mala (麻辣） soup.
Lionel runs his own blog at www.hotpotman.com
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