In my favorite movie of all time (Peking Opera Blues -- for those of you who don't yet know), a certain Chinese dish's name get rendered in the film's English subtitles as sukiyaki. While not completely incorrect, in that, like the Japanese "steamboat"-style dish, that which is known in Cantonese -- the dominant language of Hong Kong, Macau (where the above photograph was taken), Mainland China's Guangdong Province and many a Chinatown in "the West" -- as ta pin lo could be described as Asian versions of the Swiss fondue, its name usually gets more prosaicly translated into English as "hot pot".
As can be imagined from its English name, hot pot is a steaming hot dish that's really ideal for cooler climes and times of the year. However, its popularity is such that many people, including myself, are perfectly happy to partake of it on hot and humid as well as cooler and/or drier days. And, as it so happened, ta pin lo was what I had as my first full meal after arriving in Hong Kong earlier this month (despite it being a period when temperatures tend to hover in the high 20s on the Centigrade or Celsius scale)!
Ask someone what hot pot ingredient (s)he likes best and you're likely to get a whole bunch of different answers. This is due in large part to there being, in the words of one hot pot lover, "nearly as many types of hot pot as there are regional dialects in China". And, also, a whole range of ingredients to boot.
For example, some of the more delicious items that were put into the boiling hot water of the communal pot from which I recently ate included incredibly tender as well as thinly sliced slices of Wagyu beef, long pieces of chewy cuttlefish and small segments of smooth geoduck (which actually is more clam than a member of the regular duck family). And if you think that they all already sound incredibly exotic, I'm going to direct you to the items on the plate in the upper left hand corner of the above photo and tell you that they're actually -- no, I really kid you not! -- chicken penises!!!!
Still, lest it be thought otherwise, hot pots -- including even some that I've had a part in eating -- can feature more conventional ingredients. For instance, what we've got being cooked in the pot in the photo are some prawns on sticks along with some kind of green vegetables. Oh, and for those -- like myself -- who've long wondered about the differences between shrimps and prawns, it seems that a shrimp is a shrimp and a prawn is a shrimp but not all shrimps are prawns... ;b