BBC – Travel – Hong Kong’s sizzling-pot obsession



It was previous midnight in a household region in Cheung Sha Wan, and only Tai Po King Restaurant and a couple of other regional eateries had been continue to open up on the peaceful avenue. As I walked inside, loud chatter loaded the little but vivid eating region, and staff who’d just acquired off their night time shifts had been huddled all around the tables clinking little glasses of beer and smoking cigarettes. New chilli and spices had been remaining fried in the kitchen, and the fumes began spreading out into the eating region. You could perception the anticipation as we all sat waiting around for a person detail: the restaurant’s signature Gai Bo (literally, ‘chicken pot’), a steaming pot of spicy, saucy, stir-fried chicken.

You could perception the anticipation

Warm pot has prolonged been a significant section of China and Hong Kong’s eating culture, a basic a person-dish concept where clean greens and raw meat are quickly poached in boiling soup stock, with soy sauce and condiments like clean coriander, spring onions and garlic including additional flavour. Right after all the ingredients are eaten, a stomach-warming and wholesome broth stays. It is a shared eating expertise, where households and pals gather all around the sizzling pot to share stories and a food.

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The versatile cooking approach of sizzling pot is believed to date back to the early Middle Ages in the Asian steppes to the north as a resolution to take in and hold warm all around a person communal hearth, in accordance to Mary Ellen Snodgrass in the Encyclopedia of Kitchen Heritage. The centuries-previous ease and comfort foods then unfold all around the location, inspiring versions like Szechuan Maotu sizzling pot, a Chongqing specialty with a tongue-numbing broth and cow innards and Peking chrysanthemum sizzling pot discovered in Sukang, where the broth is built from white chrysanthemum flowers, prawns and pork. The cooking approach even affected Japan’s nabemono (table cookery) – a Japanese version of sizzling pot where the broth has chicken or seaweed, and cooked ingredients are served in personal bowls with dipping condiments.

But the version that can be discovered nowadays in Hong Kong is so comforting, flavourful and reasonably priced that it has grow to be a staple in a metropolis that has a brief consideration span when it will come to foods traits. It might not have been invented below, but with 266 dining places presenting Gai Bo on Hong Kong’s eating listing OpenRice, it has truly grow to be a dish of the metropolis.

It has truly grow to be a dish of the metropolis

What’s unique about Gai Bo from traditional sizzling pot is its two-section process that correctly turns a person food into two consecutive types.

Initial, a greatly flavoured pot of stir-fried chicken topped with a balanced handful of coriander is served on major of a gas stove to hold warm. Frequently diners will choose to add other ingredients like fish maw or deep-fried soy rolls to soak up the sauce. Then, at the time the chicken items are concluded, broth or h2o is included to deglaze the pot, which turns the food into a traditional sizzling pot. At this level, diners can get other raw sizzling pot ingredients to share standard suspects involve beef strips, prawns, pork balls and greens.

The dish’s huge reputation belies its fairly brief history, and there is no consensus as to its exact origins. According to Edmund Lam, proprietor of Hong Kong’s Supreme Restaurant, Hong Kong’s to start with all-you-can-take in Gai Bo buffet chain, “It was to start with popularised in Shenzhen and mainland China, with flavours of Sichuan delicacies which are quite spicy.” In truth Yu Jun Restaurant in Shenzhen’s Xiangxi Village claimed to have invented it to start with in 1994, proudly proclaiming ‘The Initial Gai Bo’ on their menu.

Siu Chung Person, proprietor of Tai Po King Restaurant, believes that he was the to start with to deliver Gai Bo to Hong Kong, in 2002. “It was the age of pork-bone sizzling pot, but we weren’t executing as effectively as the others. I remembered the Gai Bo we experienced in Xiangxi Village in Shenzhen and attempted to make it for ourselves to taste. It was rather delightful, and so we beginning promoting it,” he claimed. “The sauce from Gai Bo is specifically aromatic. It saved our restaurant and we see it as our saviour.”

Other individuals like Lam and Jane Chin, proprietor of well known Jordan Gai Bo restaurant JKJ POT, say the dish pays tribute to ‘Jer Jer Rooster Pot’, a Cantonese dish typically served at dai pai dongs, or avenue hawkers, on roadsides in Hong Kong.

“Also regarded as ‘Chongqing’ chicken sizzling pot, [Gai Bo] is just a variation of the Hong Kong ‘Jer Jer Rooster Pot’,” Chin claimed. “There’s actually no Gai Bo in Chongqing. Hong Kong people today gave it the title almost certainly mainly because its spiciness and taste resembles Chongqing’s spicy delicacies. There are fewer and fewer avenue hawkers in Hong Kong at present where Jer Jer Rooster Pot utilized to be quite well known specifically through winter season, when people today want to share a piping sizzling dish. Now, a lot more and a lot more youthful people today go for Gai Bo in its place for the very similar sensation.”

In truth, the cooking approach of Gai Bo is very similar to Jer Jer Rooster Pot – dry stir-fried. To get the large flavours to penetrate the meat, Gai Bo’s chicken is to start with marinated overnight in a spice blend that contains Sichuan peppercorn, star anise, cinnamon, angelica, soy sauce and oyster sauce. The marinated meat is then stir-fried in a wok right before remaining served in a clay pot and garnished with clean coriander. The title ‘jer jer’ is an onomatopoeia signifying ‘wok’s breath’ – the seem the raw meat makes when it hits the sizzling wok – and the irresistible charred aroma that effects is a huge section of the two dishes’ enchantment.

“The trick is to wok-fry the raw chicken,” Chin claimed. “Some dining places might to start with blanch the chicken to speed up the process, but that will outcome in white, bland and chewy meat that does not actually blend effectively with the sauce.”

She defined that hitting the right spice notes is very important, which is why she sources their Sichuan peppercorn and chilli specifically from Chongqing, China – the supply of Sichuan delicacies. These assist develop a sauce that is fragrant and spicy but does not overpower the taste of the chicken.

No matter what the story behind the dish, nowadays Gai Bo is ubiquitous all through Hong Kong. Devoted dining places have popped up still left and proper above the last decade with various recipes and ideas, from vintage broths to luxury toppings. There had been brief-lived versions involving cheese, seafood and purple sweet potatoes, and what initially was just obvious chicken broth can now be discovered as a lobster-primarily based soup or a cocktail of Chinese herbs. A-la-carte Gai Bo dining places in Hong Kong serve up high quality ingredients like clean seafood or hand-reduce beef, but the correct crowd-pleasers, with consistent crowds of pupils and households, are inclined to be buffet-design and style, all-you-can-take in versions, where diners spend a person cost for endless amount of money of sizzling pot ingredients, as effectively as beverages and desserts.

Don’t skip the crispy soy rolls – they soak up the sauce to give you highest flavour

These days, on any night time of the 7 days you will discover Hong Kong locals huddled above a pot of Gai Bo, sharing stories, laughs and beers. Ultimately, anyone has unique standards for their favourite sizzling pot restaurant, be it the cost, the sauce, the chicken or the locale. Nevertheless, if you might be in Hong Kong in winter season, Gai Bo, significantly like dim sum or pineapple bun, is certainly one thing you ought to make time to expertise. My tip? Don’t skip the crispy soy rolls – they soak up the sauce to give you highest flavour. A have to-have at any Gai Bo table.

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