Hed Chef: Yuan yang hotpot
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Spice up your steamboat this Chinese New Year with broths of different flavours.
Double your enjoyment of the reunion dinner by making your own yuan yang (two-way) hotpot.
The classic home-style steamboat is usually made with a plain broth, but why not be adventurous and pair a Sichuan-style mala broth with a nourishing herbal chicken concoction?
Mala in Mandarin means numbing and spicy. The numbing sensation comes from the use of Sichuan peppercorns.
It does require some effort to prepare two broths and the ingredients to go with the steamboat, but it is much simpler than cooking up a full-scale dinner with a range of dishes.
After all, with a steamboat, everyone is responsible for cooking their own food. That’s part of the fun.
>>> 5 litres of water
>>> 5 chicken carcasses
>>> 2-3 large pork bones
>>> 6 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and rehydrated
>>> 20g old ginger, bruised
>>> 3-4 whole unpeeled garlic cloves
1. Bring a pot of water to boil. Place the bones in it and boil until there is no blood visible.
2. Drain and discard the water.
3. Rinse the bones and place in a clean pot with 5 litres of water, the mushrooms, ginger and garlic cloves. Bring to a boil and continue boiling on medium-high heat for two hours.
4. Once the bones have broken down, strain the stock using a sieve or muslin cloth.
5. Discard the bones but place the mushrooms back into the stock.
>>> 2 litres of chicken stock
>>> 15g danggui (Chinese angelica)
>>> 20g yuzhu (Solomon’s seal)
>>> 3-4 pieces of dried huaishan (Chinese yam)
>>> 1 slice of gan cao (liquorice root)
>>> 6 red dates
>>> 10g wolfberries
>>> Salt to taste
1. Rinse the herbs.
2. Bring the chicken stock to a boil and add all the herbs except for the wolfberries.
3. Continue to boil for an hour. Top up with a little water if necessary.
4. You can allow the herbs to steep in the broth until you are ready to use it for the steamboat.
5. Before use, remove the herbs. You can leave a few pieces in the soup if you prefer.
6. Bring to a boil and add the wolfberries.
>>> 160g dried Sichuan chilli peppers
>>> 6 shallots, sliced
>>> 6 garlic cloves, chopped
>>> 30g ginger, chopped
>>> 1 cinnamon stick
>>> 1 star anise
>>> 3-4 cloves
>>> 1 tbsp ground Sichuan peppercorn
>>> 300ml cooking oil
>>> 1½ tsp salt
>>> 1½ tsp sugar
>>> 30ml sesame oil
1. Wash and dry the Sichuan chilli peppers in the sun before use. Remove any stems.
2. Grind the peppers.
3. Heat the 300ml of oil. Fry the ginger, shallots and garlic over medium-low heat until golden brown.
4. Use a sieve to strain, reserving the oil.
5. Once the fried ingredients are cool, store in a jar and keep chilled for other uses.
6. Heat the wok and dry fry the cinnamon stick, star anise and cloves.
7. Add the shallot oil. Once you see small bubbles appearing around the spices, add the ground chilli peppers, then season with sugar and salt.
8. Add the ground Sichuan peppercorn and turn off the heat.
9. Allow the mixture to cool down and add the sesame oil.
10. Store in airtight jars at room temperature.
>>> 2 litres of chicken pork stock
>>> 1 tbsp fermented black bean paste
>>> 1½ tbsp fermented chilli bean paste
>>> 2 garlic cloves, sliced
>>> 30g ginger, sliced thickly
>>> 1 tsp Sichuan ground peppercorn
>>> 1 tsp Sichuan whole peppercorns
>>> 10-12 Sichuan dried chilli peppers
>>> 4-5 tbsp Sichuan chilli paste
>>> 2 tbsp cooking oil
1. Heat oil, fry the garlic and ginger until fragrant.
2. Add the fermented black bean paste and fermented chilli bean paste. Once fragrant, add the Sichuan chilli peppers, whole peppercorns and fry for a minute.
3. Add the chicken stock.
4. Add the Sichuan chilli paste and the Sichuan ground peppercorn.
5. Bring to a boil and leave aside until ready for use.
HOW TO PREPARE HOTPOT INGREDIENTS
The best part about having hotpot in the comfort of your home is choosing the ingredients. Here is my list of favourites and how to cook them:
It’s best to have thin slices of meat for hotpot cooking.
For pork, use cuts like collar or shoulder butt (wu hua rou in Mandarin). This cut has a nice mix of lean and fatty bits. To slice the meat thinly, get it half-frozen so that it is easier to grip as you slice it.
When cooking, the meat is ready to eat once it turns completely opaque, but avoid overcooking it as it will lose tenderness.
If you like beef, go for the steak cuts – ribeye is a good choice. Avoid cuts of beef meant for slow-cooking, such as chuck.
To get that smooth springy texture and extra flavour, marinate the fish slices in a little Chinese rice wine with a dash of pepper, sesame oil and a small amount of cornflour.
Do not shell the prawns before cooking. The shells give flavour to the prawn meat during the cooking process.
Clean and remove the gills. Use a pestle to slightly crack the pincers to make eating them easier.
These will add a whole lot of sweetness to the steamboat broth.
If you are using fresh live clams, purge them before cooking.
To purge clams, place them in a basin of water with some salt. Use about a teaspoon of salt for every litre of water.
Ensure that the clams are fully submerged in the salt water.
After half an hour, discard the water and repeat the process two more times. Discard any clams which remain open when tapped.
After cooking, discard those which remain closed.
Soak the dried glass noodles for a few minutes until softened. Rinse and drain.
Tang oh (garland chrysanthemum), napa cabbage or green lettuce all work well.
Hard boil and peel before dipping into the steamboat.
Boil dried fish maw for about 15 minutes or until softened. Rinse and cut into bite-sized pieces.