Thai Hot Pot: the perfect winter-warmer/rainy-day/scorching-hot-day comfort food.
Torrential rain or 40°C weather. Humid-suffocating heat or 14°C weather. You’ll never fail see these “jim jum hotpot” spots (in Thailand) always jam-packed with customers. There’s just something about the broth in that lil’ clay pot that makes people wanna keep going back for more! I’m always amazed at how people can still be drawn to eat hotpot on a humid, sweat-filled day!
Essentially, jim-jum in itself is a unique and rustic culinary experience.
Who it isn’t for: It is definitely not advisable for people who only have 20 minutes to spare or people with tiny appetites.
Who it is for: It is a fun, communal activity for couples, families and friends whereby people get to “cook” their dinner from scratch. There is no limit as to how long people can eat — at most places, the soup is free to top-up and you can order as many ingredients as you want.
*So, basically you can sit there for hours eating & eating and no one will judge you!
(*Only applies to the local spots and not the air-conditioned buffet joints in the mall.)
Let me break it down for you a little.
The name “jim-jum” จิ้มจุ่ม simply means “dipping” (the food into sauce) & “dropping” (the food into the hot soup) respectively, perfectly describing the method of cooking and eating it.
At a regular “jim-jum” restaurant, you will be provided with a menu filled with a list of all sorts of raw ingredients that you can put inside the pot — ranging from marinated minced pork, glass noodles, chinese cabbage to prawns etc.
Then, you place your order (of the ingredients) and the server will set down a smokin’ hot earthenware pot filled with the restaurant’s secret, aromatic broth resting on top of a bed of searing hot coals, in the middle of the table. The server will then bring the ingredients you ordered, which is your signal for the cooking session to commence!
Once the soup starts boiling, it is recommended to add your vegetables into the pot first so that the broth gets naturally sweetened. Then you can start to add the meats and other ingredients inside. Once cooked, you can dip the meat into the selection of spicy and sweet dipping sauces (nam jim น้ำจิ้ม) provided. Some people like to eat it with glass noodles or a bowl of rice and other people like to crack an egg in it towards the end of the meal.
The base of the broth is traditionally made with pork or chicken, finely sliced sweet basil, ripped kaffir lime leaves, roughly chopped lemon grass and galangal pieces.
If you are going with a group of friends, it is highly economical and absolutely filling!
I once brought my British & Italian friend there for their first time and we ended up sitting there for almost 2 hours with stacks of empty plates (from the ingredients we ordered)! It was an entirely new dining experience for them, but they thoroughly loved it!
And for me, it was truly a precious time of sharing our lives (and stories) with each other and bonding over a simple, humble meal of hot pot.