I have always enjoyed going to hot pot restaurants, where you cook your own food in a bubbling hot broth fired from under the table by a burner. But with the COVID-19 virus still raging, going to restaurants may not be so safe these days.
Luckily, a friend gifted me years ago with a tabletop induction cooker and a pan that’s perfect for cooking a hot pot meal. Hence I don’t really need to go out to enjoy this treat; I can just cook it at home.
Usually, I use fresh seafood and vegetables and simmer these in a seafood or pork broth base. But the situation being what it is, I’ve had to do a lot of my shopping online. And what should I see in one of these online stores but all the makings of a hot pot meal—but with a twist. Instead of fresh seafood, this pack contains frozen fish balls, frozen prawn or shrimp balls, squid balls, fish cake shaped like cute little fishes, even items called flower slice, scallop tempura and dragon fish ball.
What I found especially appealing were the sakura shrimp which, true to its name, were shaped like cherry blossoms. I lost no time ordering some of these frozen seafood balls.
The shop we ordered from delivered our order right away (the brand they carry is called Wei Wei and it’s made in Taiwan). You can also order either the seafood or the pork bone soup base to make the accompanying soup; one 50-g pack makes about six cups of soup.
Seafood Hot Pot
For the dipping sauce:
1 c water
½ c light soy sauce
¼ c crushed garlic
¼ c chopped spring onions
For the hot pot:
6 c seafood soup base (recipe follows), thawed
150 g frozen fish balls, thawed
150 g frozen squid balls, thawed
150 g frozen prawn or shrimp balls, thawed
150 g frozen fish cakes, thawed
150 g frozen flower slice (optional), thawed
150 g frozen sakura shrimps, thawed
1 c slices of shiitake mushrooms, or shimeiji mushrooms, washed and trimmed
1 c torn cabbage or bok choy leaves
1 medium carrot, cut into rounds
150 g fresh shrimps (suaje), washed and trimmed (optional)
For the seafood soup base:
1 50- or 60-g pack seafood soup base
6 c water
Make the dipping sauce: In a bowl, combine water, soy sauce, crushed garlic and spring onions and stir well. Set aside.
For the seafood soup base: In a large casserole, combine the pack of seafood soup base and water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Season with three tablespoons of the dipping sauce. Simmer, stirring well, until the soup base dissolves in the water completely, about two to three minutes.
For the hot pot: Add the fish balls, squid balls, prawn or shrimp balls, fish cakes, flower slice and sakura shrimps to the simmering seafood soup base. Let simmer until cooked through. Stir in the mushrooms, cabbage and carrots and simmer for one to two minutes. Add the fresh shrimps. Simmer for about one more minute or until the shrimps are cooked through.
Ladle into individual soup bowls, or, if you’re cooking this table-side, let each diner ladle their own servings. Serve with the dipping sauce on the side. Makes four to six servings.
Erratum: In last week’s DIY column, in the section on tips for the best way to enjoy ice cream, the freezer should be set to the coldest (or lowest) possible temperature (not highest).