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Ancient Chinese Secret!

For health and healing.

I have been fighting off a cold for the past month like a Ninja warrior. Everyone around me has caught it, suffered severely, then been plagued by a lingering, hideous cough. But I don’t have time to get a cold. Not now, anyway. Fortunately, I have a secret weapon.

It all started this summer (Sigh! Remember summer?) with a lovely dinner for our Chinese publishing partners. When I asked the editor of Best Life what his favorite Chinese food was he said “Szechuan Hot Pot.” I had never heard of it, and despaired of ever getting to taste it.

Then my yoga teacher told me about a great new Chinese restaurant called Asia, on Susquehanna Street in Allentown (about a mile from my house). While there I noticed an unusual number of Chinese people dining. And they seemed to be eating different foods than what I recognized from a typical Chinese restaurant. When I asked May, the lovely lady whose husband is the chef, what they were eating she said it was from their Chinese menu. (I know, this gets confusing.) But, she said, I couldn’t see it, because it was written in Chinese and no one had translated it. I asked if she had Szechuan Hot Pot on it and she said yes, of course—do I want beef, pork, or fish?

The first night, I tried the beef. But I have since had all three, and they are all truly amazing. It comes in a giant steaming bowl filled with a savory broth that is so freaking hot it makes the insides of my ears burn. In addition to the meat and broth, there is savoy cabbage, celery, and ginger. You can even get brown rice instead of white. It’s happiness in a bowl. The point is, the yummy soup and the spicy hotness chase any cold germs or viruses far, far away.May is so nice that she will even put the Szechuan Hot Pot in our own soup pot that we bring for takeout—so we save a plastic container from ending up in the ocean.

When I am not fighting a cold, I try all sorts of new foods from the secret Chinese menu. It turns out that real Chinese food is not nearly as sweet and fried as the American version. And by the way, the buns the chef makes with the Peking Duck are as good as the famous Pork Buns made by David Chang from Momofuku in New York City.Actually, they are better. Because they are right down the street. In Allentown. No reservations required.

I know this cold will get me eventually. Probably over the Christmas holiday, when I can really surrender to it.Until then, you can find me at Asia. And after then, when I am sick in bed, you will probably find my husband showing up at Asia with our soup pot. It’s the only thing I’ve ever tasted that is as good as my homemade chicken soup that I make when everyone else is sick.

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6 Responses to Ancient Chinese Secret!

  1. podman06 December 10, 2008 at 3:10 pm #

    Wow – this sounds great! I’m guessing its really spicy as its “Szechuan” Hot Pot – is it also kinda “sour” like hot and sour soup?

    Great that you knew to ask for it – at authentic Chinese restaurants the best stuff is never on the English language menu (especially the steamed whole fish in savory broth) – but I have learned how to politely point toward items on the tables of dining Chinese families and say “I’ll have what they’re having!”

    I confess I usually try to take a long power nap immediately when I start to feel like I’m getting sick. Now I’ll try a nice Szechuan Hot Pot beforehand!

  2. maria@rodale.com December 10, 2008 at 3:42 pm #

    No, it’s not sour at all like hot and sour soup…just savory and HOT!

    I’ll take you, Podman06, the next time you are here for dinner.

  3. podman06 December 10, 2008 at 4:13 pm #

    Hooray! Savory, Hot and Delicious – can’t wait! 🙂

  4. David Chang December 11, 2008 at 12:39 pm #

    I tried to get a space in Allentown for Momofuku, but it’s all about who you know.

  5. bklyngirl December 11, 2008 at 5:57 pm #

    I’ve never had Szechuan Hot Pot but can totally appreciate how great this must be when you have a cold.

    Quite a few years ago I suffered with persistent stuffed sinuses. It got so bad I couldn’t taste what I was eating – imagine the only difference between your scrambled eggs and your toast being texture – not fun.

    We came across a Vietnamese Noodle House and there discovered my favorite soup of all time – Bún bò Huế. I’ve seen it served with different meats but I skip the pork and stick with beef sirloin which is typically sliced really thin and dropped into the soup almost raw and just cooks really quickly in the hot broth. It typically has a generous amount of red chilies. The hot, spicy, lemongrassy broth was the only thing that would clear my sinuses. I’ve been in love ever since.

    Going to go in search of Szechuan Hot Pot next.

  6. podman06 December 16, 2008 at 9:12 am #

    The Szechuan Hot Pot was excellent! – I am now a convert to its fiery goodness. The beef was really tender and delicious, the cabbage and celery were soft and firm – and the broth did make the inside of my ears burn! The Hot Pot reminded me of the Korean dish “chigae” – usually made with well-formented fiery kimchee, tofu, and pork. I’m guessing that the dishes are close cousins – The Cousins of Fire!

    Other dishes at Asia were wonderful as well – Peking duck soft buns were worlds better than the usual flat pancakes, and the lettuce cups were unusually good – not too gloppy and saucy, which seems to be part of Asia’s authentic Chinese style.

    “Asia” is a wonderful place to visit – a great pick from Maria – Highly Recommended! 🙂

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