Our daughter Claire does a great line in flying visits from Australia. She and her Welsh husband lived in London for many years and they usually have a reason to travel back to the UK once or twice a year. When they do, she always manages to tag on a few days in Ireland. As a result we see her a bit more frequently than we feared when she moved to Oz, with lots to pack into a short trip including visits to Grannies in Wexford and Ardee and catching up with friends and relatives.
I miss my far flung offspring and I miss their friends too – the impromptu comings and goings of young people, their laughter and chatter, an unexpected guest in the pot for dinner. So what better way to celebrate her brief visit home than with a Mongolian hotpot shared with family and friends.
Daughters fill a house with laughter and invite Claire’s friend Diane to dinner and you’re guaranteed a night of uproarious conversation. Diane’s views on the justification for expensive shoes are worth a blog post all of their own. (“Even if you’re having a ‘fat day’ your shoes still fit and make you feel fabulous…)
I love the relaxed, convivial and leisurely pace of a hotpot dinner and the way it encourages conversation as dishes of raw ingredients get passed around the table.
Kevin Hui the owner of China Sichuan Restaurant tells me that, when his restaurant was closed for a while, his chefs would often invite him over for dinner, a saucepan of broth bubbling on a gas burner or an induction hob in the centre of the table, plates of ingredients ready to be cooked, dipping sauce on the side – self-service with a difference.
Shane introduced us to Mongolian hotpot with his student friends when we first visited him in Beijing over 5 years ago. We had another great hotpot meal there in June which I mention in the post “If the heart is bright the wonderful will appear” . But before this week I had never cooked one.
And then, if you have read wagyu beef Shananigans style, you will know about the challenge from @Pat_Whelan of James Whelan Butchers to give his very special beef a Chinese twist and my growing fears of not doing this exceptional meat justice. The beef is from his own wagyu herd at Garrentemple, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary and has been dry aged for a minimum of 21 days.
It was my Twitter friend Audrea (@Artisan Chutney) of Tastefully Yours, who supplied the stock recipe, who got me past the panic stage by reminding me to trust my instincts and that cooking is supposed to be fun.
So trust my instincts I did and it was fun, the most enjoyable meal we have had in a very long time, in fact, and also very delicious. It is extremely easy to prepare making it ideal for relaxed entertaining. The variations are endless and that’s part of the pleasure of table top cooking – there are no rules.
But for what it’s worth, this is the version I prepared this week.
Shananigans Shabu Shabu Hotpot
Ingredients for 6 people:
- 2 to 3 litres of @artisanchutney stock made with beef short ribs (see previous post)
- Chunk of fresh ginger peeled
- Shaoxing rice wine
- Light soy sauce
- 4 tbs light soy sauce
- 2 tbs Shaoxing rice wine
- 2 tsp Chinkiang black vinegar
- 2 tsp sugar
- A good pinch of dried chilli flakes
- 1 spring onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 3 wagyu strip loin steaks
- Chinese dried mushrooms
- Shitake mushrooms
- Oyster mushrooms
- Enoki mushrooms
- Purple sprouting broccoli
- Broccoli florets
- Bean sprouts
- Baby spinach leaves
- 300 g Amoy thread fine noodles
- Reheat stock, add the piece of fresh ginger, season to taste with Shaoxing rice wine, light soy sauce and salt and leave to simmer loosely covered so that the flavour infuse
- Trim the fat from the wagyu steaks and freeze covered with cling film for an hour – this makes it much easier to slice them very thinly.
- Soak the dried Chinese mushrooms in boiling water for 30 minutes then squeeze the water out and remove the stalks.
- Remove the wagyu beef from freezer, slice very thinly and arrange on a plate. Allow to come to room temperature before serving. Don’t be tempted to marinate the meat. It doesn’t need it and it will spoil the flavour of the beef rather than enhance it.
- Wash all the remaining vegetable ingredients. Arrange on plates.
- Combine the dipping sauce ingredients and serve in individual small bowls.
- Bring the stock back to the boil and remove the ginger.
- Place the hotpot with its heat source at the centre of the table, filling it about 2/3 full with the boiling stock (keep the rest in reserve to top up as needed)
- Arrange the plates of beef, vegetables and noodles around it.
- Make sure each guest has a bowl, chopsticks, a strainer (tea-strainers will do) for lowering food into the hotpot and rescuing it, a small bowl of the dipping sauce and a soup spoon (preferably a Chinese one).
- Encourage guests to start by dropping their favourite vegetables into the broth as these take a little longer to cook and also flavour the broth.
- Then each guest can lower small amounts of beef into the broth with their strainers swishing it around “shabu shabu” style until it cooks which only takes a few moments – just wait for as long as it takes for the colour to turn and then dip it lightly in the dipping sauce.
- As the meal progresses guests can drop in the noodles which cook very fast.
- If the broth appears to be cooling at any stage either top it up with boiling broth or put on a lid for a few minutes to allow it to come back to temperature.
- Any broth left-over when all the ingredients are used up can be served as soup – in Sichuan province soup is always served at the end of a meal and is drunk to cleanse the palate – or saved for the next day.
Anyone who knows anything about wagyu advised me to let the beef be the star of the show and it surely was. We were all blown away by its delicate texture and flavour and almost foie gras like consistency. It stands up to Pat Whelan’s claim that it is the best tasting beef you will ever have.
The gentle poaching in a broth that was not over-spiced enhanced its flavour and the fast cooking vegetables complemented rather than over-powered the meat. Hotpot is also a great way of making a little wagyu go along way – 3 steaks was more than enough for 6 people.
- The beef came from James Whelan Butchers own Irish wagyu herd.
- With the exception of the Enoki mushrooms which I found in the Asia Market, all the fresh vegetables were supplied by Donnelly Fruit & Veg and bought in either Superquinn or Donnybrook Fair.
- My hotpot was purchased on line from Table Top Cookware where the lovely Sophie could not have been more helpful in getting it to me on time.
- If you have difficulty sourcing any of the Chinese ingredients check out Chinese kitchen essentials.
I have lots of suggestions on variations to this dish, including using cheaper alternatives to wagyu beef, which I will post in a few days 🙂