March 04, 2024

Blending traditions: Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day feast

Diamond Dishes

At its core, hot pot is a social experience where you cook raw foods in a communal pot of flavored broth or soup. It has many variations across almost every Asian country and a handful of European ones, as well.

With Chinese New Year coming up on Feb. 10 and Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14, let’s embark on an affordable culinary love story as we blend the rich traditions of Chinese New Year with the romance of Valentine’s Day through a delightful hot pot experience at home.

A hot pot meal is a communal dining experience where diners cook a variety of raw ingredients, such as thinly sliced meat, seafood and vegetables, in a simmering pot of flavored broth at the center of the table.

While my take on hot pot doesn’t offer a strictly authentic experience, it’s a simple and enjoyable introduction. For a more authentic encounter, additional research or a visit to a hot pot restaurant or a Chinese market is recommended.

For those with access to an Asian market, a single trip will yield all the essentials. If an Asian market isn’t handy, a little online planning can bring the necessary ingredients and equipment to your doorstep.

When shopping for your hot pot feast, simplicity is key. Equip yourself with an electric or butane burner for tabletop cooking, use an electric skillet or plan your meal around the stovetop.

Consider a divided pot to enjoy two broths at once. A wire skimmer and chopsticks keep your ingredients in check while cooking. You can use a fork; I won’t tell anyone.

When planning your menu, it’s easy to over shop. Plan for 8 to 12 ounces of meat, seafood or tofu per person, and aim for 2 to 3 ingredients from each food group: vegetables, mushrooms, starch and fun accompaniments.

Leftovers? Repurpose them into delicious soups and noodles in the days following the festivities.

The menu that’s pictured includes thin slices of beef sirloin and pork belly. The veggies are napa cabbage, baby bok choy, spinach, sweet potato, red pepper and white, cremini and enoki mushrooms.

For starch you’ll see fresh noodles, bean threads and rice vermicelli — as well as dipping sauces, zesty soy sauce, peanut sauce and chili oil, with fresh garnish of cilantro, green onion, chopped peanuts and sesame seeds.

Since this meal centers on broth, this recipe makes a delicious broth using chicken, beef, pork or vegetable broth. Or, you can also use a few flavor packets from instant ramen and cook the noodles during your meal.

Feel free to customize these ideas to fit your style and preferences. Enjoy creating a memorable and culturally rich Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year celebration!

Hot Pot Broth

Servings: 6 to 8 cups

Ingredients

6 to 8 cups broth, depending on pot size

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and sliced

2 green onions, chopped into large pieces

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon chili oil, or to taste for spicy broth only

Procedure

Heat broth in a saucepan on the stovetop or in your hot pot. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until ready to use.

Zesty Soy Dipping Sauce

Servings: 1/2 cup

Ingredients

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce

1 (heaping) tablespoon green onion, sliced

1 clove garlic, grated

1/2 teaspoon ginger, grated

1 teaspoon brown sugar

Procedure

Mix ingredients together and refrigerate until serving.

Easy Peanut Sauce

Servings: 1/2 cup

Ingredients

1/3 cup peanut butter

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon garlic, grated

1/2 teaspoon ginger, grated

Procedure

Place peanut butter, oil and teriyaki sauce in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave for 15 seconds. Stir until the ingredients are smooth. Add remaining ingredients and stir to incorporate. Refrigerate until serving.

Patti Diamond

Patti Diamond

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is the penny-pinching, party-planning, recipe developer and content creator of “Divas On A Dime — Where Frugal Meets Fabulous!” at www.divasonadime.com. © 2024 King Features Synd., Inc.