Hotpot sounds so innocent, doesn’t it? The name summons up warming winter foods at home, preferably when it’s freezing and raining outside.
Turns out it’s a bit different here. A dozen of Vanessa’s Hong Kong former colleagues wanted to meet up with us for the evening, and hotpot proved to be a hugely entertaining way of mass eating. A giant pot or two of spicy broth in the middle, surrounded by dozens of plates of assorted Things, which you plunge into the broth. Slippery raw meat, boiling stock and my chopstick skills: what could possibly go wrong?
We survived. Her colleagues are lovely and stifled their giggles as I wrestled with – and ate – slippery unidentifiable objects of varying degrees of hideousness. Sea cucumber innards turned out to be pretty good – at least, tasteless enough to be edible. A strange spongey slice proved to be some kind of stinkhorn mushroom, which was actually rather lovely – not much mushroom flavour, but interesting foamey texture. The thin-sliced lamb was too fatty for me, but the carpaccio-style sliced beef was delicious. But a strange slice of green which I’d assumed was vegetable, turned out to be tripe – and hideous. I bravely chewed it for about 10 minutes, gagging slightly, realised it wasn’t getting any smaller – and had to give up.
The colleague who had organised the evening, Money, is one of the most organised and thorough people that Vanessa has ever worked with. We got to the restaurant before the others, and they said the table had been booked for 7.30, not 7. This would mean that Money had made a mistake, which, Vanessa said, was not possible. And so it transpired: Money sent through a screenshot of the conversation where the restaurant confirmed 7. Of course.
The day of wandering Hong Kong was lovely otherwise. It was as sky-scraper-tastic as you’d expect, though less western – lots of more Chinese areas at ground level. And the star ferry across to Kowloon was gorgeous – at about 20p, probably one of the best value tourist things ever, along with the strangely narrow double-decker trams a close second. And the markets around Temple Street and Ladies Market are entertaining – all the more so as the vendors aren’t pushy; you can stop and look without being ‘helped’. But I think I prefer Macau.
Anyway – the hotpot night overran significantly. We’d meant to leave around 9 – and wound up getting back after 2am, facing a 5am start. Oh well. Good times Hong Kong!