Monday, February 18, 2008

Hot Pot: The Art of War

In raiding and plundering be like fire, is immovability like a mountain.
Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt. [6:19]

Sun Tzu's pearls of wisdom from 6th century bc is still a point of reference for modern warfare. It is believed that he wrote The Art of War after laboriously and tediously analyzing the history of war in China. I, however, have a different theory. Being of Chinese nobility, Sun Tzu likely grew up in a very large family, with siblings as numerous as sheep. During the harsh winters, he and his siblings would eat hot pot to keep warm. As battles hard won and lost, it would be these strenuous meals that first taught young Sun Tzu the critical importance of positioning and strategy for ensuring one's survival.

Let us here, then, pay proper homage to the Art of Hot Pot (or, literally, Fire Pot), that most lovable and ubiquitous, trying yet supremely fulfilling, wintertime activity. As relentless food warriors, my friends and I fought the good fight twice in one week -- first to herald in the year of the rat, and then in celebration of our dear Meex's big two-five -- at glorious Grand Sichuan on Canal and Chrystie (no relation to Grand Sichuan in midtown).

At Grand Sichuan they prepare their hot pot in the Chongqing style, making the resultant experience even more closely resembling that of war. The Sichuan peppers and peppercorns flavor the boiling broth in which we cook the food to effect mouth(and mind)-numbingly spicy flavors, creating a full body experience that is at once stupid and euphoric. My body shakes, my skin sweats, and the color of my face emulates that of the Sichuan peppers. But I irrationally persevere.

The Battlefield (The Terrain and Laying Plans)

Here we have the stage of our battle. Grand Sichuan provides a split hot-pot, one side for the warriors, and the other for the not-so-warriors. Guess which side this is.

The Accoutrements
(Waging War and Attack by Stratagem)

This here is a sample of the thinly sliced beef that we dipped in our war stew. Other accoutrements included bamboo shoots, tofu, chinese vegetables, pork, scallops, rice cakes, fen si, fish balls, golden-tipped mushrooms, tripe, and much more. Although I have stated that there is no ownership in Chinese cuisine, the art (and fun) of this war is to manage to retrieve your selected accoutrements from the battlefield before other warriors cunningly "handle" them. Once retrieved, the warrior has the choice to bathe his spoils in several dipping sauces. As the daughter of Chinese parents raised in Taiwan, my sauce of choice is the "sa cha," mixed with a raw egg. Sesame, peanut, and pungent tofu were also favored by the other warriors.

The Opportunity
(Energy, Weak Points and Strong, and Maneuvering)

Unfortunately a warrior is not so free to stop and take commemorative snapshots in the midst of battle, and I could only sneak in a few photos towards the end while opposing warriors rested. Keep in mind that this was to the detriment of fully capitalizing on my own endurance, but I did it for you dear reader.

The Side Battles
(Variation in Tactics)

Besides hot pot, we also waged war and kicked the ass of some other great Sichuan dishes. This here is the pathetic remains of some oil-boiled-fish. I would also highly recommend the red oil wontons, dan dan noodles, double-boiled pork, mahpo tofu, gan bien string beans, sliced beef tenderloin, and so on and so on.

The Aftermath
(The Army on the March and Attack by Fire)

We are such bloodthirsty warriors that after the battle had been fought and won by all, we continued plundering. Here you see our greedy spoons sipping the blood (or broth) of the conquered.

In the end, with our our battle wounds on full display, faces freshly scarred by the mighty touch of hot oil fervently splashed by our thunderbolt moves, each warrior emerged victorious, and ready, as always, for many more battles to come.


Isadora said...
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Isadora said...

Shouts outs to Scott Cohen (, the first completely random izzylovesfood reader that I have coincidentally met in person, and to whom this post is dedicated. :)