Hot Pots!

Feast Magazine: April 2012

Once upon a time, I went a birthday dinner of a friend at Grand Sichuan in New York City. There were about ten people in attendance and the meal consisted of a giant pot of simmering broth over a table side propane burner into which we dipped all manner of delicacies both familiar (raw vegetables, beef, pork) and unfamiliar (fish balls, tripe, dried bean curd, unidentifiable sea food). We devoured our meal, sweating and coughing at the intense heat generated by hundreds of hot peppers floating in the broth. The service was terrible and there wasn’t enough water to cool our burning mouths, but it was one of the most memorable meals I’ve had.

After dinner we adjourned to a nearby bar where I met up with a lovely young Columbia grad student for our first date. Despite the fact that a friend’s birthday party was a poorly thought out idea for a first date and I arrived reeking of hot pepper sweat, somehow she decided that I was worth a second date. And a third. A few years later she agreed to marry me. Suffice it to say that I have a soft spot in my heart for hot pots.

Since I have a personal history with hot pots I was very excited to team up with fellow New York expat Andrew Mark Veety here in St. Louis for a project for the cover story in the April edition of Feast magazine. Andrew did some exhaustive research on the best hot pots in the area, and I had the pleasure of photographing each dish. It was one of the more difficult food assignments I have tackled. Each dish is meant to be a communally shared dish, but each has it’s own style and essence that I needed to capture in a single shot for each. For example, for the Lu Lu Seafood Hot Pot (pictured above), the important element was the hot peppers, while at Mai Lee (below) it was the smoking charcoal brasier that heats keeps the broth at a boil throughout the meal.

Canh Chua Dau Hu at Mai Lee in St. Louis, MO.
Canh Chua Dau Hu at Mai Lee in St. Louis, MO.
Sukiyaki at Nippon Tei
Three Cup Chicken Hot Pot at Manderin House in St. Louis
Kim Chee Hot Pot at Korea House in St. Louis, MO.

Have these pictures convinced you to try out some hot pots? YUM. Read the whole article over at Feast online.

Chef Wes Johnson, Photograph by Jonathan Gayman
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