The crab pot, made of fat crabs caught at the peak of the season, is typically boiled with other seafood ingredients as well as tofu, chicken feet and potatoes.
FROM New Year to Spring Festival, Chinese spend plenty of time around the dinner table. Often, a simmering hotpot can be found at the table’s center. For more than 1,000 years, the hotpot has been an easy and economical option to feed a crowd of people, and the spirit of sharing food is perfect for the holiday season — may it be for a long overdue family reunion, a catching up with friends or for the tightening of business relationship.
In Hangzhou, two special types of hotpots are currently particularly popular — crab pot and Chaoshan beef hotpot.
For the crab pot, crab, chicken feet, potatoes and rice cakes are boiled together. The crab’s umami adds a fabulously savory flavor while the chicken feet’s collagen thickens the soup.
The traditional beef hotpot is also seeing a revival. Different sorts of beef cuts are combined for this hearty hotpot, guaranteeing that it features the perfect cut for everybody on the table.
Shanghai Daily has collected the most important tips in making these two hotpots at home, or, if you’d rather have someone else clean up the dinner mess, we’ve chosen Hangzhou’s top restaurants to savor a crab or beef hotpot during the holidays.
Crab pot 蟹煲
When it comes to fresh seafood, Hangzhou residents are lucky. The waterways in and around the city are rich in shrimp, fish and crab, all great ingredients for a savory hotpot.
The crab pot, made of fat crabs caught at the peak of the season, is typically boiled with other seafood ingredients as well as tofu, chicken feet and potatoes. For some extra flavor, soy sauce is added to the mix.
Crab shells are also cooked in the crab pot, albeit mostly to make the dish look visually appealing and quickly identifiable. It’s tricky to get to the crab’s meat, and it’s certainly a messy affair, but after being cooked for some time, the meat is tender and it’s easier to suck it out.
The dish is generally considered to have a “umami” taste — pleasantly savory. A loanword from Japanese, umami describes a fifth basic flavor, besides sweet, sour, bitter and salty, as people taste it via different receptors than saltiness.
Crab is essential to the dish, but so are the other ingredients that make crab pot so unique. The chicken feet’s collagen thickens the soup, soy sauce adds a pleasant smell and color, tofu soaks up the flavors and adds texture and the boiled potatoes balance the saltiness.
Root vegetables and chili can be added, and some recipes substitute crab for crayfish or shrimp.
The recipe indeed is quite simple. Remove the crabs’ shells and cut the crabs into half, marinate them in Chinese rice wine and sauté them. Then sauté ginger, garlic, scallions and chicken feet. Just before the chicken feet are done cooking, add bean sauce (dou ban jiang), soy sauce, and the sautéed crabs. Add boiling water, tofu and the potatoes. Put the lid on the pot and heat it until the chicken feet get tender.
Where to eat:
• Fat Brothers’ Crab Pot (Pang Ge Lia) 胖哥俩肉蟹煲
Address: 4/F, Zone B, Bldg A, Hangzhou Tower, 21 Wulin Square 杭州大厦A座4楼B1特卖场旁
Tel: (0571) 8807-9777
Address: B032, Hubin Intime (In77), 258 Yan’an Rd 延安路258号湖滨银泰2期B032号铺
Tel: (0571) 8587-0447
• Trendy Shrimp 潮虾
Address: 3/F, North Building, Star Avenue, 1766 Binsheng Rd 滨盛路1766号星光二期北楼3楼
Tel: (0571) 8777-7156
• Qing Jing Restaurant 青菁酒家
Address: 255 Hedong Rd 河东路255号
Tel: (0571) 8523-3313
For the Chaoshan beef hotpot, sliced meats are supposed to be boiled less than eight seconds, and eaten immediately.
Chaoshan beef hotpot 潮汕牛肉火锅
Over the past six months, a dozen new beef hotpots from Chaoshan have been introduced to Hangzhou. Chaoshan is the linguistic and cultural region in the east of Guangdong that is quickly developing into a single metropolis.
While Western cuisine distinguishes different cuts of beef as fillet, sirloin or T-bone, people from Chaoshan have their own frame of reference. Wuhuazhi, for instance, is meat from the leg, boren is the back part of the neck and shibing is taken from the chest, while xiongkouyou is the fatty cut right below the chest skin.
For the Chaoshan beef hotpot, sliced meats are supposed to be boiled less than eight seconds, and eaten immediately. Meat balls are cooked until they float to the surface, while the spine bones should be boiled the longest and will be eaten last.
Adding hot spices isn’t recommended as it would overpower the beef’s fresh taste.
When it comes to beef balls, Chinese people prefer them to be as chewy as possible. In Stephen Chow’s film “The God of Cookery,” the female lead tenderizes the meat over and over so that the beef balls have enough elasticity to be used as ping pong balls. Although the scene was designed for laughs, there is some truth in it, too — especially when it comes to Chaoshan beef hotpot. The hotpot’s beef balls are indeed the size of a ping pong ball, and chewing them does require some time and effort.
In most Chaoshan beef hotpot restaurants, you’ll be seated in an open dining room where you can watch the chefs beat the meat over and over again.
Adventurous diners can try beef from the cow’s neck, fatty meat from the chest or different intestines.
Where to eat
• Ciu Saan Beef 潮牛海记
Address: 6 Baifu Rd 白傅路6号
Tel: (0571) 8605-8777
• Beef Fire Chaoshan Beef Hotpot 牛焱火锅
Address: 2/F, Qingchun Intime Department Store, 18-26 Jingtan Rd 景坛路18一26庆春银泰二楼连廊
Tel: (0571) 8653-3366
• Fresh Beef Chaoshan Beef Hotpot 牛很鲜潮汕牛肉火锅
Address: 2/F, He Jia Yuan Building, 198 Chaohui Rd 朝晖路198号和家院2楼
Tel: (0571) 5685-1777
• Beef Language Hotpot 牛言潮汕火锅
Address: 1/F, Hyatt Golden Plaza, crossing of Binsheng and Anye roads 滨盛路与安业路交叉口君尚金座1楼
Tel: (0571) 8522-2327
• Niu Huo 牛惑潮汕牛肉火锅
Address: 417 Zhongshan Rd N. 中山北路417号
Tel: (0571) 8691-6851
Source: Shanghai Daily