What's the best way to get rid of a chill on a cold winter's day? Probably the best answer if you are in China is sitting down for a nice hot pot dinner.
By posting 11 videos on Instagram showing himself enjoying Sichuan hot pot in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, soccer star David Beckham has helped push Chinese hot pot into the international spotlight.
"Finally got to try the authentic Sichuan Hot Pot!" Beckham posted along with his videos showing a steaming hot pot surrounded by plates of fresh food.
Sichuan hot pot in particular has enjoyed quite a reputation around the world.
When David Cameron, the former UK prime minister, visited China in December of 2016, he showed his enthusiasm for Sichuan hot pot by gulping down several cilantro-mixed meatballs, as well as some "two-flavored" hot pot soup.
Besides Sichaun hot pot, there are many other types of hot pot that can be found all around China. While they may be less famous, they are not any less delicious.
According to the preferences of people in different parts of China, hot pot can be generally divided into three types: Sichuan hot pot, Northern-style hot pot and Southern-style hot pot.
Sichuan-style hot pot
As one of the most representative kind of Chinese hot pot, the classic "Numb and Spicy," or mala, hot pot actually originated in Chongqing, Southwest China. Chongqing hot pot is known for its unique flavors as it makes use of local ingredients to flavor the soup.
As for what food to cook in this type of hot pot, fresh maodu (cow stomach) is a great match for the flavor of "Numb and Spicy" hot pot.
To fit the flavor of maodu and other fresh meats, oil is usually added to the broth, which gives the soup a strong flavor. Although this red oil can normally be seen floating on the surface of the soup, it doesn't taste or feel greasy at all.
One of the most traditional condiments eaten along with this type of hot pot is the well-known broad-bean sauce, which adds a fragrant scent to the soup.
Cut into small pieces and mixed with beef tallow, the broad-bean are boiled until they turn red. Sichuan pepper, salt and some sugar is also added to the soup depending on personal taste.
Northern-style hot pot
When talking about Northern-style hot pot, instant boiled mutton is one of the first things that come to the minds of most Chinese.
Made using lamb's tail and a white-colored soup base, the mouth-watering scent of the soup will tempt you to give it a taste even before you start cooking your meat in the soup.
Meat is cut into extremely thin slices so that they may cook quicker after being placed in the boiling broth.
In order to guarantee a better hot pot experience, people in northern China are very picky about the pot itself. The most typical and traditional material used to make a pot is copper, which is safe and easy to keep clean. Its copper color is also very attractive to the eye and helps the soup reach the boiling point faster since it conducts heat better.
As for the ingredients used to make the soup base, Chinese jujubes and goji berries are widely popular in the northern parts of China. If you want an even more authentic flavor, ginger slices and shallots should also be added as well.
Lamb hot pot is another type of Northern-style hot pot that originated during the reign of the Kangxi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Consisting of a pot filled with chunks of lamb meat, people gather their families in their house and share the meat to ward off the chill of cold weather.
The chunks of meat are so big. They are too clunky to eat using chopsticks, so people wear gloves to keep their hands clean as they eat their meal by hand.
The meal is usually accompanied by Chinese liquor.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, both lamb and Chinese liquor can keep your stomach warm and strengthens your body.
Southern-style hot pot
Just like there are numerous dialects spoken in the southern part of China, there are also a multitude of local hot pot dishes that people enjoy.
Since many homes in Southern China lack a central heating system, hot pot is a larger part of people's daily lives in the region since it can help keep them warm.
People in Guangdong Province are known for the creative way of dining. As for their hot pot, they have come up with various kinds of soup bases, including broth made from millet, beef and seafood. To preserve the flavor of the food, people in Guangdong even use a stop watch to keep track of how long each particular piece of food added to the pot is cooked before eating. This demonstrates the people of the region's high respect for food.
For those who live in East China's Zhejiang Province, ingredients include chrysanthemum, a local flower usually used to make tea in the rest of China.
The Dong ethnic minority in Yunnan Province uses an interesting ingredient for their soup base - water squeezed from the intestines of an ox. Mixed with salt, oil and some peppers, this is the most supreme food for distinguished guests.