Jilin, China, April 2008
The north-east of China is famous for its hotpot restaurants although they are not as spicy as their more famous counterpart in Chongqing. They are best visited socially in groups, although, as it was only a fiver, I thought I’d have a go at eating the lot myself! As you can see in this video, several plates of food arrive at the same time, to be cooked by the customers in the stock-filled cauldron at the centre of the table. The plates typically include three types of meat, with varying degrees of fat content, bean curd, mushrooms, cabbage, sweet pickled chillies, prawns, crab and noodles. There are also several dipping sauces, one quite like a peanut satay. I would like to say this could be made to be vegetarian but I don’t know what they put in the stock. Heating methods vary, (electric hotplates at our local place, Jabu on London Rd) but this restaurant had a maze of pipes running around the ceiling that came down to each table bringing steam to heat the cauldrons. The restaurant even had an on-site fireman whose job seemed to involve carrying round buckets of hot coals to stoke the boilers and presumably to stop the place from burning down. It was quite an experience.
Jilin province is also home to one million ethnic Koreans (very near the border with North Korea), so when the school I was working at asked me what I wanted for lunch, I jumped at the opportunity to go to a Korean BBQ restaurant, Again, lots of plates of different, thinly sliced meats are cooked at the table, this time on a coal-heated grill, and then dipped in sauces and eaten. We had several other dishes such as kimchi (Korean national dish of pickled chilli cabbage), bibimbap (rice, chilli and mountain plant roots!) and black noodles. Truly delicious but again not for the veggies.