Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Cooking with Chopsticks

Chinese legend holds that shuanyangrou was a Mongolian dish, popular among the nomads of northern Asia and introduced into China by Kublai Khan (1215-1294) when he founded the Chinese Yuan dynasty. Wang writes, “It is said that while campaigning in China, Kublai once had a craving for mutton stew, common in Mongolian cookery. As the chef was making it, his army came under attack. To save time, the chef sliced the mutton into thin pieces and threw the slices in the boiling water for fast cooking. He then spread salt and condiments on them. Kublai quickly gobbled them all up and praised the taste.”

Hot pot is still popular today, and easy to prepare at home. Chopsticks are essential to the dish and the cooking method—the nimble instruments allowed diners to choose a portion of sliced meat and chopped vegetables and load them to a communal pot to cook. Below, some instructions on preparing, serving, and enjoying the versatile Chinese hot pot.

Hot PotIngredients
  • 1 14-ounce can beef broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons medium or dry sherry
  • 4 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2-4 teaspoons Chinese chili-garlic sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 1 cinnamon stick
For serving (adjust these to your taste)
  • 1 pound greens (spinach, Napa cabbage, or bok choy), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 ounces dried bean thread noodles, soaked and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 pound mutton or flank steak
  • 1 16-oz package of tofu

Bring the first 12 ingredients (broth through cinnamon stick) to a simmer in a medium saucepan.

Thinly slice the meat, vegetables, and tofu and arrange along with the noodles on a serving platter for diners. (Freeze the meat beforehand to yield the thinnest slices possible)

Set a Mongolian hot pot or electric wok in the center of a table. Pour the broth into the pot and adjust heat to a gentle simmer. The guests use chopsticks to cook the meat, vegetables and tofu slices in the boiling water. Serve with easy Garlic Mustard and Ginger Soy Sauce for dipping.

Ginger Soy Sauce
  • 1/4 cup ginger, minced
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce

In a small mixing bowl combine ginger and honey and stir until combined. Add the sesame oil and soy sauce, stirring between each addition.

Garlic Mustard
  • 3 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup dried mustard powder
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon cooking oil
  • 2/3 cup rice wine vinegar
Mash garlic in a small bowl, add sugar and stir until it dissolves. Add water, mustard powder, oils and vinegar stirring between each addition.

Adapted from Eating Well and the Food Network.

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