The other day I was reading something called a “book.” While reading this book, I stumbled across an interesting factoid. (All I have time for anymore—just the factoids, ma’am.) The author was of the opinion that Peking Man was the first hominid to use fire. We know this because we have his left molar in a box somewhere.
Which got me to thinking. If there is a Peking Man, shouldn’t there also be a Peking Woman? I wonder what kind of recipes she has to share? I’m pretty sure Peking Man was too busy at the hunting and gathering office to actually cook.
So I got a copy of the Chinese Telephone Book and started looking. It took a long time as you can well imagine. I did find a listing for Peking Tom, but the number was disconnected.
I searched and searched, but alas, could not find one single listing for Peking Woman. Dejected, I decided to take a walk. I guess I wasn’t really paying attention to where I was going and I got lost.
Now, my usual M.O. for when I get lost in China—not that it happens a lot, you understand—my usual M.O. is to hail the first cab I see and tell them my address. I’m getting pretty good at speaking Chinese. Okay, not that good. I have a piece of paper in my wallet with my address on it and I show the cab driver that.
I wasn’t in panic mode yet, though, so I thought I should explore this interesting-looking street that I was on. I turned a corner, and there it was.
Beijing Woman’s Happy Hot Pot Restaurant. At least, that was what I translated as I am getting pretty good at reading Chinese, too. Of course! They changed the name from Peking to Beijing a while back and Peking Woman kept up with the times. Why hadn’t I thought of that, huh? I went in.
The hostess informed me that Mrs. Peking had just gone to the bank, but would be back shortly, would I like to wait? She handed me a Tsingtao and a menu and pointed me towards The Pretty Good Wall of Fame. It looked like a great wall to me; it was a veritable Hu’s Who of Chinese History.
There was a picture of Mark O’Polo. Who knew he was Irish? There was a picture of Attila. They dated briefly after Mr. Peking’s demise. She called him “hon” and apparently the name stuck. There was a team photo of the Mongol Horde and even a picture of General Sanders before his demotion.
After I finished looking at the wall, my table was ready. I sat down and ordered another Tsingtao. Do you know the Tsingtao Brewery has operated continuously since 1903? Pretty impressive given China’s history. Their original slogan was “Make Beer, Not War.”
The restaurant was packed and I was on my third Tsingtao by the time the waitress came to take my order. I have a secret method for ordering food in China: look for a restaurant with pictures on the menu. If they don’t have pictures, keep walking. I ordered the Hot Pot.
Now, my original intention was to share a famous Hot Pot recipe with you. However, apparently there’s a clause in my writer’s contract that forbids publication of any recipe calling for propane and power tools. Darn.
If you’ve never had Chinese Hot Pot, well, then, it sucks to be you. First of all, you need a big round table with a hole in the middle of it. This is for the pot. Then you need a fire underneath the pot for the hot part. Hot Pot is kind of like fondue on steroids, with meat, but hold the cheese. Chinese prefer tofu.
Sometimes the pot is divided in yin-yang fashion with mild on one side and extra spicy on the other. The soup stock is water, salt, and secret Chinese ingredients. Meats are usually thinly sliced while frozen, which causes them to roll up deli style. The important thing is to have a lot of people, a lot of ingredients, a lot of time and a lot of Tsingtao.
Speaking of Tsingtao, I never did get to meet the famous Peking Woman. I woke up in my apartment the next day after a very sound sleep. They must have found the address in my wallet while removing the correct amount of RMB for the bill.
If you want to read more about Chinese Hot Pot, here’s a link to the Wikipedia page. By the way, Chinese New Year is coming up on February 3rd. It’s the Year of the Rabbit. Three days later, Americans will celebrate their favorite holiday, Super Bowl Sunday.
Why not combine both occasions with a Super Bowl Hot Pot Party? Just a suggestion.
Here’s wishing you a Happy and Prosperous New Year!