Date
24 April 2019
Hotpot restaurants remain a popular dining-out option for many Chinese, especially during the winter months. Photo: Bloomberg
Hotpot restaurants remain a popular dining-out option for many Chinese, especially during the winter months. Photo: Bloomberg

Can we do without hotpot?

Be it cold or warm weather, Hong Kong people don’t need much excuse to indulge in one of their favorite foods — the hotpot.

If you are like me who loves winter but always feels hungry hours before regular meals, all you would have in mind is beef, meat balls and vegetables in a vat of piping hot broth.

Almost every time I propose a hotpot, I find myself immediately seconded on the choice, given the food’s convenience, quick execution and easy after-meal clean-up.

Of course, there is one drawback, which is that you could find yourself getting hungry again – usually within two hours, in my case.

Also, it must be said that people with delicate tummies may sometimes find the hotpot a bit much to handle.  

Among the many memories I have from my work assignments, there was this episode once when I had to take a couple of foreigners around the city and introduce them to Chinese eating culture.

During a night out, the visitors wanted to sample all kinds of popular local dishes, which inevitably meant a hotpot, among other items.

The meal was done and it all seemed to go well, until the next day when terrible news came in. The two foreigners, I was informed, were sick, possibly due to food poisoning.

I am still not sure whether the food served was too raw for them, but one thing I’ve kept in mind since then is that I probably do much better being served than to serve when it comes to hotpot.

All said and done, there is no doubt hotpot evokes strong feelings in the food world.

A hot topic among netizens this week has been comments made by Chua Lam, a respected Hong Kong food writer, on the subject of hotpot.

During a talk show, Chua was asked by the host as to what Chinese food dish he would like to see vanish from the world, to which the restaurant critic and TV personality replied: “hotpot”. 

“Because hotpot is the most uncivilized cooking method. You throw in everything. What is so good about it?” Chua said, by way of explanation. 

Well, it is clear that Chua is not a hotpot fan, but at least he was honest in his comments and made his stand known despite surely being aware of the intense criticism that would follow. 

Chua’s remarks indeed generated howls of protest, with many Chinese hotpot fans taking to social media to denounce his argument that hotpot lacks cultural significance. 

Hotpot critics can contend that the art of cooking is missing because all that seems to matter is the soup ingredient.

But that won’t be enough to convince millions of fans of those dishes to rethink their food choices. 

Debates notwithstanding, we can expect hotpot to remain high in popularity in the Chinese food world.

Why else, for instance, would Haidilao International, the Sichuan-style hotpot chain that listed in Hong Kong last September, continue to hold up well on the stock market despite a broader equities slide?

Haidilao’s market cap, for those who want to know, currently stands at around HK$90 billion, a reflection of the high expectations that investors have for the mainland firm’s growth prospects.

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RC

EJ Insight writer

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