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One Cook's Best Dish

Matzo ball hot pot

April 1, 2009

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Serves 6

Hot pot has an improvisational quality that makes it great for all kinds of groups: fussy eaters, vegetarians, fish-phobics, spice lovers, and more can all be accommodated. When Zhuqing Li makes her hot pot, she uses some or all of these ingredients. Adjust the variety to suit your tastes and circumstances. Fish balls, shrimp balls, fish cake, tofu skin, and other Asian ingredients are at Asian markets. To make a Passover version, use beef, chicken, vegetables, and matzo balls (you'll find a recipe on Page 17), and skip the dipping sauce.

1/4pound beef tenderloin or sirloin (half-frozen), sliced paper-thin
1/4pound pork loin (half-frozen), sliced paper-thin
1/4pound boneless chicken breast (half-frozen), sliced paper-thin
1/4pound shrimp, peeled
6frozen fish balls
6frozen shrimp balls
6frozen fried fish cakes
2ounces tofu skin
6frozen Chinese dumplings
Matzo ball batter, shaped into 3/4-inch balls
1bunch watercress, coarsely chopped
1/4pound shiitake or oyster mushrooms
1/2pound soft or silken tofu, cut in bite-size pieces
1/2pound rice noodles or sweet-potato noodles
1cup soy sauce
1teaspoon sesame oil
1tablespoon rice vinegar
2cloves garlic, crushed
Pinch of sugar
2quarts water or chicken stock
1. On a platter, arrange the beef, pork, and chicken. On another platter, arrange the shrimp, fish and shrimp balls, and fish cakes. On another platter, arrange the tofu skin and dumplings. On another the matzo balls. On another the watercress, mushrooms, and tofu. On another the noodles.

2. In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, garlic, and sugar. Stir well. Divide the mixture among 6 small bowls or custard cups.

3. In a saucepan, bring the water or stock to a boil. Transfer the boiling liquid to a large wok and set it on the stove or another heat source. All diners should have easy access to the wok; the wok should not wobble.

4. Give each diner a bowl and chopsticks to swish ingredients in the boiling water until they are cooked. The most flavorful items (meat and fish) should go in first, then the tofu, vegetables, and matzo balls (let the balls simmer for 20 minutes or until tender). If not using noodles, when the matzo balls are ready, give each diner 1 or 2 balls. Ladle the broth over them. If using noodles, add them at the end. When they are ready, divide the broth, matzo balls, and noodles among the diners.

Adapted from Zhuqing Li