(Disclaimer: this post is subjective and based only on my own observations. Please let me know if you have different observations or opinions.)
There might not be one national dish of Hong Kong, but one thing that says “Hong Kong” more than anything else is Hot Pot. A dish of soup on a stove and people sitting around cooking foods and eating it right out of the pot. Initially I was thinking, hey it’s awesome in cold weather as the steam makes it warm and cozy. But real Hong Kong people don’t care what weather is it outside. There is no bad time for hot pot. Hot outside? Turn the AC all the way down. Cold? Great!
Based on my experience, there are always “those people” whenever you go to hot pot. Everyone acts a bit different when hot pot is involved and some take on specific roles unconsciously.
The Hot Pot Master.
It’s that person who tells you when it’s okay to start cooking the food, when some foods are ready they would tell everyone to eat it. They would put cooked food into your bowl and generally be in charge of the pot on the table.
In our family, everyone has their own opinions, but only one person is consider an authority on food, so when he says the food is ready, it is i the best condition it can be. Not raw but not overcooked. He’s the one who prepares food for our family hot pots every time as well and everyone trusts him.
The Correct Order Watch.
Everyone has their own ideas on how to do hot pot. One thing that might became a small clash between people is the order on cooking the food in hot pot. Some people would start with meats, then drop in dumplings as they need more time, continue with seafood, after that put in the greens and end in udon. That is the order of P.’s family which I personally enjoy the most as I can get full on meat and just taste a bit of seafood. Then some people would just drop everything inside at once. Some people wouldn’t even eat any veggies, like lettuce. Some people like to have seafood first, so then the taste goes into the meat as well. And a real Order Watch person will always always always tell people how to do the hot pot right (their way).
Hot pot is the best when it’s connected with drinks, mostly with beer. There is no hot pot without beer for me personally. Since, hot pot is literally like a party, then drinking lemon tea just doesn’t cut it. There will always be a person who drives the beer drinking. They would toast, they would encourage people to order more and they would be the first ones to wave the staff to bring more glasses of fresh beer. They also usually are the one who get drunk first too!
The person who follows the lead of the loudest at the hot pot table. They eat quietly and wait for the Hot Pot Master’s directions. Ok, maybe there is not many of those – it’s just me. I take advantage of those small pauses in-between to grab more foods and always am on stand by with my bowl to get some ready foods that are offered. I admit, I’m still not a strong player in the hot pot game, but I learnt enough to know you have to eat udon at the very end to get the best taste of it!
I too am a foreigner and I know some foreigners who indulge in hot pot, but some of them are not the biggest fans. To fully participate in hot pot activity, you always need something that you can eat. A lot of people from (esp. Eastern) Europe might not be the seafood lovers, so they would ask to include meat, or sausages or anything they can actually eat. While, I always thought hotpot is an easy food, as you can select what you eat from a big variety, it seems that some people find it difficult and having those small foods they like guaranteed, make it easier for them to handle hot pot.
If your family has some foreigners, please include easy foods in your hot pot! Don’t go straight into intestines and weird sea creatures!