A long overdue update

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It’s been a short while between updates and as usual, a lot has gone on in the world’s most populous country. From Foxconn raising employee wages to try and curb an ongoing spate of suicides, to massive flooding resulting in death and destruction.

I think my favourite story to come out of China in recent days was reforms in the town of Shaoshan – the home town of an old Chinese fellow by the name of Chairman Mao. It seems in Shaoshan there has been complaints regarding the quality of Mao related souvenirs that are going on sale, with many people claiming the actual resemblance to Mao himself is sub-standard. Thankfully the government has stepped in, bringing in reviews of existing products and benchmark standards going forward. Chairman Mao is serious business in China, and for all those people who ask Mao to bless their career, studies, luck and life, this is no laughing matter!

In other unrelated news, we head into town the other night for Hot Pot. Along one of Box Hill’s main roads is a small restaurant named Little Lamb. Always recognizable by the steamed over windows, and upon further inspection, an eatery packed full of young Chinese, devouring delicious hot pot – their piles of ingredients arranged artfully about their tables. Along the entire length of the wall is a photo of a herd of sheep, reminding you of the number 1 item on the menu, lamb.

For the first time since China, we actually felt a little hesitant to walk into a restaurant – daunted by being the minority once more. While no-one batted an eye at our entry like they would have in China, it still felt odd all the same. It brought back memories of Wuxi, where we would walk into a restaurant and the entire room would turn to look at us in wonder. How we would not only feel placed on a pedestal, but uncomfortable by our lack of knowledge for the menu – made all the worse by the fact it was written in Chinese characters.

When living as an expat in China, you don’t want to come across as a tourist. You want to walk around town in comfort, visiting restaurants and using your street smarts you have picked up along the way. You want to impress the locals with your know-how. When the attention is on you and you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s a unique sensation. You feel that you want to continue to carry the foreign banner – an ambassador of sorts. So then when you look helplessly at the menu, or at a complex dish such as Hot Point which sometimes isn’t immediately obvious what you even need to do – well it feels unpleasant.

Thankfully this was not our first time into the world of Hot Pot, and as we sat down and started ticking off ingredients like pros, we felt like we fit in. I don’t believe I have eaten Hot Pot since last winter, where the fiery chilli infused food is a perfect match for the bone-chilling cold weather. I can say that I forgot just how hot, Hot Pot could get, and burnt my tongue more than a few times on molten squares of silken tofu.

While it’s not something I could eat more than ‘every now and then’, Hot Pot is definitely something I would recommend for those who have never tried it. If you do not know where to start, at least ask for a Pot which is half-spicy, half non-spicy. With those odds, you’re at least guaranteed to get out of the starting blocks.

Mmmm Hot Pot - can you tell which side is spicy and which side is not? 🙂

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2 Responses to “A long overdue update”

  1. paddy665 Says:

    Oh man hot pot.
    Currently living and studying in Sichuan Province which is like the Hot Pot capital of the world. Seriously people here are obsessed with Hot Pot. My American friends told me about the fiery oily sensation that is Hot Pot and I was a little hesitant to try it.

    A few weeks later I was meeting a Chinese friend for lunch and he took me to a hot pot restaurant and started ordering all this weird stuff like stomach and throat and lotus root and other things to this day I have no idea what they were.

    My mouth and nose was severely assaulted by the incredible spice sichuan is known for, it was actually not a very pleasant meal because the spice was far too intense for me. I have since learned to make sure at least some of the hotpot is without spice.

  2. Marcus Says:

    Hey nice one. Hotpot is definitely not for everyone, but I think once you develop a taste for chilli, there’s just no turning back.

    Little tip in regards to Hotpot – get a pot that’s half spicy, half not. Put things like vegetables, noodles, tofu, lotus root etc in the non-spicy broth, and all the meat, like fish balls, meat balls, dumplings and what not in the spicy side. The spice suits meat a lot more as while it’s intense, it’s not overpowering …well depending on the strength of the lava on the other side 🙂 The vegetables on the other hand – particularly tofu, are much better in the non-spicy side. I like spicy food, but i find that the vegetables soak up the spice like a sponge and the end result is killer. In particular the blobs of silken tofu…once that’s been soaking in the spice, it’s like eating fireballs.

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