'We Try It' is a regular series where we try the latest off-beat food and beverage offerings.
Preparing and executing spicy hot pot at home is a process. You need to dig out that old hotplate you never use, make broth, chop up veggies and meat and then, obviously, cook it all up. After that: the dreaded and inevitably oily cleanup.
If only it could be easier, you've probably wished before. And now it is, with the advent of prepackaged, self-heating hot pot.
The instant noodles-inspired huoguo is ready in 15 minutes, no external heating required. While there are numerous prepackaged hot pot brands available, we sampled the aptly-called Chongqing Self-Heating Hot Pot.
The meal comes in a square red plastic container. All the necessary hot pot ingredients and accessories are inside: spicy broth mix, vegetables, meat, seaweed, a water-activated heating pad and a small plastic cooking ‘pot.’
Meal prep is as follows:
1. Remove the smaller bowl from the container. Add Chongqing soup mix and then fill it up approximately halfway with water.
2. Add prepackaged meats and veggies to the fiery broth.
3. Put the heating pad in the bottom of the larger bowl and add roughly an inch of water to activate the heating pad.
4. Place the smaller bowl inside the larger bowl and then put the lid on. Let boil for 15 minutes.
While the meal cooks, a steady stream of steam leaking from a hole in the lid and around the edges of the top releases a scent that stings the nostrils.
Inside the steaming plastic container, a smorgasbord of edibles – potatoes, seaweed, mushrooms, chicken, tripe and intestines (of unknown origin), lotus root, bamboo shoots and noodles – boil away in the super spicy broth.
When finished, crack open the top to indulge in authentic(ish) Chongqing-style huoguo.
The finished product
Although we were skeptical, the prepackaged hot pot delivered a flavor-infused selection of edibles. The dish was also loyal to the hot and numbing taste you've either come to know and love, or to fear.
A word to the wise: if super-spiced, kick-you-in-the-throat heat is something you do not enjoy in a meal, refrain from using the entire broth mix. From our experience, half of the soup-mix package is more than enough to get you red in the face.
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