hot potTo me, Chinese New Year is not complete without a big family meal involving hot pot. While my real family is thousands of miles away in Asia, I was privileged enough to be invited to Chez Robert’s to share a meal with friends, close (ww, gerrie, ceci, robert) and new (Felix, Elaine, Hannah, Oliver, Bryan, Michelle). And while hot pot isn’t anything new to me, certain aspects were pretty novel. It was the first time I’ve seen 11 people fit comfortably in a NY one-bedroom, huddling over 2 huge pots overflowing with food; the first time I’ve eaten geese intestines (white in color with a crunchy, tendon-like texture, instead of being leathery like pig’s intestines) and one of the few times I’ve witnessed urbanite friends bust out their cooking chops (boy, can this guy cook). We ate steadily for 3+ hours, chipping away at the mountains of fish-balls, bowls of clams, dumplings both home-made and store-bought, and thinly sliced beef in Styrofoam platters that Robert gleefully ripped open every time we finished a plate.nian gao

We finished the meal with homemade chinese desserts, including a red bean glutinous rice cake (nian-gao – 年糕, Nian taking on dual meanings of being both sticky -粘, and year – 年) uber-auspiciously flecked in gold (Robert, my mum wants the recipe) and cold white fungus with lotus seeds and red dates soup, its gelatinous quality apparently good for the skin.

As we were about to leave with our aching and distended stomachs, Robert jokingly issued an invite for the next dinner party, with a sweatpants dresscode for ultimate comfort and extendibility. I for one will definitely be there!