Too many cooks spoil the broth?

Nonsense. I think our group of fabulous foodies worked this Chinese hot pot broth with the skill you’d see in a troupe of synchronized swimmers. Maybe with a bit more of a splash around.

Hot pot broth at Xiao Wei Yang International, Dubai

The first time I had hot pot was in the U.S., in Philly’s Chinatown, courtesy one of my most awesome college buds, Yin. Now Yin is a superstar in her own right, one of those crazy phenomena you see spinning around the planet, singing, dancing, strategizing about businesses, consulting other failed businesses, recording music, pumping out taekwando, traveling, cooking these awesome Chinese dinners for people…yep, pretty much changing THE WORLD. She sat me down with a group of people around a pot, a yin-yang pot, part spicy, part mild broth, and rattled on to the Chinese server about strange and exotic ingredients. Heck, you could say boiled cabbage in Mandarin and it’d sound exotic to me.

I remember staring at a plate of raw slippery seafood in front of me, staring at the lobster, the lobster staring back at me. I was still in my early days of pushing the food boundaries. Yin looked around, anyone want yummy lobster, anyone, anyone, no? okaaaay then – *CRRRRAAAAAACKKKKK* *SPLASH!* *BOBBITY BOB* [dead smashed lobster bobbing in broth].

That act of heroic lobster-cracking was my moment of truth. I don’t even know what I ate after that, all I know was that I had been…inducted. I was now part of a new, higher level of foodism that stretched beyond the cooked, the curried, and the awww-now-doesn’t-that-look-pretty-on-my-plate.

UFO of my cooked pickings from the hot pot broth

I don’t know why I’ve waited for so many years to repeat the hot pot experience. Maybe it was because I didn’t have enough friends who dared to be caught shoving anything in the same pot of broth as me. No matter, it has finally happened this year, with a huge and awesome army of friends that dove into the herbed broth at Xiao Wei Yang with the raw zeal of hungry chopstick-wielding cavemen.

Elaine was our translator, our hot pot mentor, our ingredient orderer, our knuckle-rapper if some of us naïve ones got distracted with less worthy dishes on the menu, and our temperature gauger to make sure things were cooked through before some eager beaver shoved a raw strip of beef or a half-done fishball into her mouth.

We got the yin yang pot of spicy-mild broth, keeping ancient gluttonous memories alive, and cause if you can have both spicy and mild broth, why would you force yourself to pick? Here’s what we dunked into the broth:  superfine marbled beef strips…

…fishballs, fish heads, chinese cabbage, lettuce, blue crabs that turned red in the boiling broth (Poseidon’s answer to gobstoppers)…

…tofu, julienned seaweed, shrimp, and these noodles.

Look at them noodles, fresh hand-pulled works of art. The key it to wait until you’ve dunked everything else in, swirled it all around, let the fishymeatyveggie juices become one in the broth, and THEN. Then, when the broth is all clear and all else on the platters has been demolished, that’s when you slide the noodles in. At the peak of brothy flavor, when all the noodles can soak in everything and become these hoses of broth-busting flavor.

I’ve eaten a lot of noodles, but these ones will never forgive me for slurping a mediocre noodle again. The bar has been forever raised.

Now waiting for all the raw flotsam to cook up in the broth can be the worst taste-bud tease ever, especially if you’re sitting elbow-to-elbow round a table of foodies who can’t stop chattering about what they ate last Sunday or what they cooked this morning or how they’re dying to try some tantalizing sounding dish in some part of town. Nope, on a table of foodies, waiting for food is not an option. The strategy is basically to eat food while you’re waiting for other food. And so the fillers we sagely ordered before, during and after the meal (with the scallion pancakes being at all three points of the meal), included, these scallion pancakes. Thin warm slices of oniony carby Chinese-style pizza, so madly addictive that I think I may have given them a little too much importance over the main hot pot star on the table. All you have to is schlep yourself over to the self-serve sauces table and grab one bowl of leek chutney, another of garlic oil, dab some of each on, preferably one condiment on each alternate slice to avoid a confused leek garlic mash (though that actually sounds pretty delicious now that I think about it), and you’re GOLDEN.

These things up there looked pretty darn close to Indian paranthas. They tasted pretty darn close to them too. So close that Elaine glared at us for ordering something that was clearly not as authentic as the rest of the stuff bubbling in the broth. Regardless, it had a funky name, one like Hand with Crispy or Crispy Hand or some such thing, and if I hadn’t tasted it before I’d left, then…then…then I guess I’d have gone home with more broth and less crispy in my tummy. Yeah I know, not the end of the world.

And these spice rubbed beauties here are the pre-cooked BBQ’ed lamb ribs, coated in thick dry spices. A bit chewy on the bone, but somehow, it sort of grows on you, just as anything spice-rubbed and meaty and yummy naturally would.

We annihilated two pots of broth, and at least two plates of nearly every raw ingredient. We started out as synchronized swimmers, and ended up as overstuffed octopi. Yin, you’d have been so proud of me…you’d have been proud of us. Gluttony hath ne’er felt so good.

**Special mention to all my fellow foodies who silently endured hot broth splashing on their faces when I clumsily lost control trying to chopstick-twirl a bunch of noodles out of the pot: Hot pot mastermind Elaine (aka Lady Scribblelicious) and her hubs, FooDiva, Kooksfood, Sunny D and his chopstick champion friend Taka, FooDee, Dina and her baby Hello Kitty, and the seductive noodle-slurping Ginger and Scotch.

Xiao Wei Yang International Palace Restaurant
Phone: +971 (4) 2215111
Baniyas Road (straight down from the Radisson Blu on the Deira Creek), Dubai

Author: InaFryingPan

With a family legacy of ingenious cooks, a nutritionist and chef-extraordinaire mother, and a father who introduced me to steak and caviar when I could barely reach the table, I had no choice but to acquire a keen awareness of food during my childhood years in Dubai. But it was only after I found myself on a college campus in Philadelphia – far away from home, too cheap as a student to spend on anything other than pizza, and with dorm rooms that had little rat-holes of kitchens if they even had them at all – when I developed a heightened appreciation of food. An appreciation of food that I once ate every night at the dinner table in Dubai, but that was now an entire ocean away. I lusted for the culinary treasures that lay outside the stale walls of my college dining hall, hijacked friends’ kitchens to try my hand at something, anything , remotely edible, and greedily raided different websites in search of highly-rated restaurants. With my move to New York to work for a consulting firm that secretly harbored self-professed foodies, my appreciation transformed into a passion, an addicition. I felt like everyone around me in New York was talking about food: where to get the best cupcakes, pizza slices, banh mi, kati rolls, pho, fried chicken, and every other food item out there that is just a plain old dish in some part of the world, but that’s become hyped to unforeseen proportions in New York. What fuelled my addiction over time was travel to different cities, both for work and play, which gave me unfettered access to the culinary havens of not only New York, but also of DC, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Vegas, Austin, Seattle and even a little city called Bentonville (Arkansas!). After 9 years away from home, I’ve finally taken the leap to come back to Dubai – with not just an awareness, but genuine appreciation and passionate addiction for what I’d taken for granted as a child. Mom, I’m back to reclaim my seat at your dinner table, and to rediscover this city with its ever-expanding menu of international flavors.

9 thoughts on “Too many cooks spoil the broth?

  1. Saleem says:

    Chinese-style pizza looks great must try that – guess you will make that for us some day.

  2. FooDiva says:

    Thanks for the mention! I would go back just to dunk those noodles, and scoff more scallion pancakes of course :)

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @Saleem – you bet daddy, I think I would stack em up as a takeout for you, don’t know if you’d be able to handle the strong seafood smell of the resto!

      @FooDiva – hells yeah, those noodles were MONEY.

      @gingerandscotch – " " ;)

  3. ';Yin L. Yin says:

    super-super-super like.
    I don’t remember taking you to hot pot, Arva — we have eaten so much together — but the description seems very plausible. :)

    The pictures from your outing look quite legit. the scallion pancakes are one of my favorite things *ever*. And: yes, the other type of pancake IS really similar to paranthas — it’s totally authentic!! that’s why I LOVE Paranthas!!!!

    My other fav ingredients for hotpot are potato slices (put them in at the beginning and they will also end up soaking up all the favor by the time they are done) and same with tofu (silk tofu for quick cooking or frozen tofu for more chewiness). Not sure if Dubai has supply of fresh bamboo shoots and needle mushrooms, but in any case, I still need to take you to China someday to taste the real thing. You can start saving up now, because you’ll be needing a lot of SD cards for the pictures. Muahahahaha.

  4. Sliceofmylyfe says:

    I enjoy reading your posts so much. Each paragraph has me cracking up!

    Seems like such an interesting group of people eating interesting stuff.
    I do not think I have had my "moment of truth" with food, maybe it is because I never tried to push my boundaries. I am willing to dare myself just to see if it changes my world and how I look at it.

  5. Jonathan says:

    Excellent post. If you want to try another place go about to international city and try xiao fei yang. Your friend is right make it china where you can experience amazing hotpot for and unlimited beer for less than 5 bucks a person. However, until then keep enjoying.

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @Yin L. Yin – ….oooo, take me with you to the Land of China, TAAKE MAAAY!! I would walk around wearing in an inflatable balloon so that I could stuff up on every yummy thing that you’ve raved on about in the past. Seriously Yin, this China trip is LONG overdue. I have my SD cards and big belly ready, let’s make it happen!

      @Sliceofmylyfe – Thank you, means a ton coming from an awesome writer like yourself! I’m all for advocating foodie experiments, sometimes you win, and sometimes you…barf…but at the end of the day, it’s all a big fat learning experience :)

      @Jonathan – ah yes, I think I have heard of that place from a fellow blogger. We initially thought they were run by the same people, but it seems like they’re both independently run. Yep, these two joints will just have to give me my hot pot fix until I can weasel my way into a China trip.

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