Daily Prompt: Time After Time: What is it about your traditions that keep them going strong for you?
My favourite family ritual is that of family gathered around the dinner table, hotpot style! For those who are not familiar with hotpot dinners, this is how my family’s version. A pot of unflavoured soup is placed at the center of the dining table. It sits over a portable “stove” that keeps the soup at near boiling. Dishes of food surround the pot and fill up the table. You will see vegetables like spinach, Napa cabbage, lettuce, corn on the cob, and favourites for those who are gathered. There are also uncooked meats like chicken, beef, veal, pork and pre-cooked fish balls, beef balls, pork balls, and similarly Chinese favourites. Sometimes, uncooked de-shelled and de-veined shrimp will be available and mussels, clams, and other family favourites.
Someone at the table calls everyone to put a little bit of food in front of them into the pot. If your favourite dish is out of your reach, you can ask someone who is closer to it to put some into the pot for you. The more experienced hotpot person will usually sit in front of their “favourite section.” When the pot is full, someone will let everyone know that the pot will be covered with a lid soon. After 3-5 minutes, all the soup should be boiling and the lid will be lifted. Dip in time!
In my family, we have plates where the cooked food is scooped out of the pot using a kind of ladle that is made of wire so that the food can be scooped up without taking the soup. A soup ladle is available to scoop soup but the soup will taste better after a few more rounds of cooking.
Another hotpot specialty is the sauce everyone gets to have to flavour their cooked food, such as soy sauce, chilli sauce, bbq sauce, peanut sauce, fish sauce, and any other favourites. Everyone hotpots differently.
Hotpot is perfect for cooler months, but I have seen pictures of my dad’s family enjoying hotpot dinners in the evenings in Brunei where it is hot all year round.
Why do I keep this tradition? Firstly, communal eating is a very effective way for a large family to bond because there is a good time for eating, talking, sharing, laughing, reminiscing, waiting and more! The dishes are easy to prepare because after you pick the ingredients up from the grocery store, you just have to wash and place the items on the table. It can be potluck style too where each family member brings their favourite dish or a dish assigned to them. There are always leftovers for everyone to bring home. At the end, everyone is fully satisfied, all the better for having gathered.