Hot and Spicy

My life is pretty quiet and predictable. Thank goodness for grandkids to shake it up a bit. Like Sunday, when Addie texted me to see if I wanted to go out for a late lunch of sushi. Who would say no to that suggestion, particularly from a 15-year-old granddaughter whose life is so busy with school and volleyball and play practice that she doesn’t get to spend as much time with Nana as she used to? Unless, apparently, sushi is involved!

Beyond the sheer joy of spending time with my teenaged granddaughter, sushi makes me happy. In fact, pretty much all Asian food makes me happy. I probably eat pho once a week. Poke is my newest craving. When all else fails, I’m even up for Panda Express.

Last week, I had a new Asian food experience that was pretty remarkable. I had asked my daughter-in-law Alyx (who is of Cambodian heritage and is pretty familiar with all sorts of Asian cuisine) about hot pot. She knew a bit about it, but hadn’t had the experience. We made a hot pot plan for some future date.

That date turned out to be one day last week, when she and I went to Aki Asian Hot Pot in a part of neighboring Aurora that has a decidedly Asian emphasis. There is, for example, a large Asian market right next door. I would have visited that market except for the fact that our lunch took a good two hours and Cole’s preschool teachers frown on parents picking up their kids late, especially smelling like garlic chili sauce. Pacific Ocean Market will have to wait for another day.

But, ahhhhh, hot pot. What a fun (and delicious) experience. I knew absolutely nothing about it, so it was like entering a foreign country. We were led to a table that included four electric burners. Now that’s interesting, I thought.

You order from what looks like a sushi menu, but isn’t…..

You select your broth (she chose beef bone broth and I, of course, went for the spicy broth) The broth is the base of your so-called hot pot. You choose the things you would like to cook in your broth……

Here’s what we ordered: lamb, pork belly, beef, clams, mussels, cuttlefish, kelp, yams, potatoes, lotus root, three kinds of mushrooms, spinach, bok choy, and two kinds of noodles. What the heck? It’s anything you want for one set price!

When they set your broth onto the burner in front of you, you turn it up so that it reaches a boil. You then place the food into the hot pot and let it cook to your liking. The broth gets hot enough for the clams and the mussels to open up.

Ladies and gentlemen, it was amazing. And you can begin to see why the lunch took a full two hours. Continuous eating, except for the time outs to blow my nose from the spicy broth. It was like fondue on steroids.

I love to enjoy new and exciting experiences, especially when they relate to food. Hot pot: It’s what’s for dinner.