Mix and match ingredients at the ‘Hot Pot Fest’ at Vivanta By Taj, Vazhuthacaud

Hot Pot is haute! “And a perfect dish for the monsoon season,” says Jose Thomas, executive chef, Vivanta By Taj, Vazhuthacaud, as Chef Wang Wen, the endearing speciality chef at Chinapolis, the hotel’s Chinese fine dining restaurant, makes to order our very own Hot Pot. We’re at Chinapolis to tuck into the restaurant’s ‘Hot Pot fest’.

“The Hot Pot is a typical Chinese cooking tradition that usually has a simmering pot of stock into which fresh ingredients – meat, seafood and/or vegetables – are tossed and cooked right at the table,” explains Chef Jose, stepping in as we struggle to comprehend Chef Wen’s heavily-accented English, which incidentally, has improved quite a lot from when he first came to the city, a year or so ago. Here, instead of it being spread out on individual tables, platefuls of ingredients for the Hot Pot have been neatly arranged, buffet style, in a corner of the restaurant. The ingredients range from fresh prawns, crabs and fish fillets to finely-sliced beef, pork, lamb and chicken, to sausages, piquant Shitake mushrooms, crispy water chestnuts, crunchy Pok Choy, Black fungus, rice, glass noodles, spring onion, birds eye chilli, and so on.

“All the ingredients are thinly-sliced to enable it to cook easily,” says Chef Wen. He is just back from vacation in Beijing, his hometown, from where he has brought some special condiments such as Chinese chilli paste, chilli oil, and hot Szechwan pepper, just for the fete. There’s also an array of other typical condiments such as oyster sauce, sesame seeds, sesame oil, light and dark soy sauce, and peanuts, to name a few.

There are three types of Hot Pots available at the fete – vegetable, mixed meat and seafood. All we have to do is point out to Chef Wen what all ingredients we want in our Hot Pot and how mild or spicy we want the dish to be. And voilà! In a matter of minutes, you have your Hot Pot, piping hot off the stove. For our first hot pot (its unlimited!) we’ve chosen an eclectic mix of seafood with glass noodles, Pok Choy, broccoli, and baby corn and left the choice of the condiments to Chef Wen (after all, chef knows best!). Apart from trying to figure out how to eat the crab, it was scrumptious, especially when it’s dipped with the flavour-filled peanut-based sauce that the chef has made out of the condiments. The tongue-numbing spice of the Szechwan pepper nicely sets off the mildness of the stock and the ingredients. The mixed meat hot pot too is brilliant and well worth the extra spice that we requested for.

The prices range from Rs. 700 for the vegetarian Hot Pot to Rs. 900 for the non-vegetarian version. The mixed meat variety is priced at Rs. 800. Taxes extra. The Hot Pot fete is on till July 14, from 7.30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Contact: 6612345