“The little chilis can numb your tongue, but they are authentic. This is the only restaurant in Houston like the ones back in Hangzhou”, my nephew said on his last night in town. It was a place called Mongolian Hotpot, on Richmond just past Fairview, SW corner. The place was packed. My nephew ordered for us, fatty mutton, lotus root, tofu skin, bok choy, Napa cabbage, noodles, ear fungus, spicy and herbal broth, and sesame dipping sauce. The steaming cauldron of divided broth had an indescribably delicious aroma, heavy with cumin, star anise, and other things I couldn’t identify. Wikipedia doesn’t identify the common spices, but maybe they are these: cumin, star anise, ginger, cinnamon, dried lotus flower, dried mushrooms, sichuan peppercorns, dried tangerine peel, fermented black beans, and probably a soy sauce and a vinegar. There were some football shaped things floating in the spicy broth bigger than quail eggs, and I’ don’t know what they were.
The plate of mutton was like rolled prosciutto, hard to remember it was raw, unsmoked. We put some of the meat in first, then gradually added and ate the other ingredients. we were never sure if the lotus root was done because it remained crunchy. The sesame dipping sauce was excellent. I shouldn’t have sipped any broth – salt overload, maybe because they kept topping up the broth with broth.
It was fun to eat and cook, and admire the ingredients, cooked and raw. You could have a different meal every time.