Friday, April 17, 2009

Chinese Boiled Dinner

Two things everyone has to sample when they visit Beijing: Roast duck and hot pot. Last night, we tried the hot pot -- the Chinese version of a New England boiled dinner- at the Man Fu Lu, a huge restaurant that at least from the outside, looked more like a movie theater or a temple with its red and yellow neon signs and paper lanterns strung everywhere. Inside, it was just neighborhood regulars out for a Friday night dinner, except for us, from what I could tell the only non-Chinese there.

With lots of pointing and help from several waitresses, including the "deputy lobby manager'' who spoke a little English, we managed to assemble a table of raw ingredients- chicken, something called "American beef'' which look like bacon; a big plate of raw spinach and some other greens.

The waitress lit a sterno under individual copper pots of water, and when it started to boil, signaled that was the time for us to start putting the ingredients in - one piece or leaf at a time- and begin "cooking'' our dinner. We each had a little dish of a brown sauce for dippping the cooked meats and veggies.Tons of fun. Not the fastest wait to eat, but then you tend not to eat a much as you might since you have to wait for each bite. Cheap too. We expected a bigger bill than we received - about $16 including beer.

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