From October 15 to the 30th, 2016 over 30 Chinese restaurants will be featuring their unique dishes to us here in the Lower Mainland in what is known as the Chopstick Festival. To get the word out about the participating restaurants, there have been media dinners, one of which I recently attended at Chuanxi Plain Hotpot in Burnaby, near Metrotown.
What is a Hotpot?
It is a low, wide metal (or could be ceramic) bowl that sits on top of a gas burner. Different broths can be put in the hotpot, and to that you add whatever vegetables and meats you desire. Some broths are spicy while others are not. For our media dinner we had 2 hotpots; one was spicy and the other was not, using a chicken stock. Everyone takes turns cooking different items in the hotpot and we all share together. It is a fun way to eat.
To the hotpots we tried every conceivable meat, fish, and vegetable on the menu. There were paper thin slices of beef, chunks of chicken, lamb and pork, fish balls, fish cubes, shrimp, tripe, quails’ eggs, Enoki mushrooms, spinach and much more.
The spicy hotpot was quite spicy, but tolerable after you had the first few items from the cooked broth. One of the items that surprised me that was rather enjoyable was the quails’ egg in the spicy broth.
To the cooked items, you also have a custom made dipping sauce. Before ordering the items you want to cook in your hotpot there is a table with a myriad of sauces and spices. Pick up a small bowl and create your creation. There is even a bowl of MSG if you want to add a umami punch to your food.
There was a smoky, sweet plum drink for us as well as Chinese tea. I did not notice a wine list, but if I were to try pairing wines with hotpot, I may consider a dry Chenin Blanc from South Africa or the Loire Valley for the non-spicy chicken broth, as Chenin is generally very food friendly for many different dishes. The spicy hotpot would be a bit more difficult. Assuming your taste buds can tolerate the heat, I would recommend a fruity, low tannin red wine, such as a Gamay Noir, which can be found from various wineries in the BC Okanagan (e.g. Haywire), as well as the Beaujolais region of France. Another possibility would be an off-dry Riesling from Germany. Sweet and/or fruity help to quell spice.
You are probably wondering what all this wonderful food and hotpot looks like, so enjoy the pictures below and check out this restaurant and others participating at the Chopstick Festival!