Temper puts in the hot seat four fab New York-based Chinese dudettes who are dipping into the essence of Chinese society via their interactive food-themed pop-up art gallery. Providing visitors with a non-traditional way to experience traditional Chinese food, immersing themselves in the melting pot that is the Big Apple, it’s Hot Pot Lab.
Hot Pot Lab, NYC’s first interactive food-themed pop-up art gallery, provides visitors with a non-traditional way to experience traditional Chinese hot pot (火锅 or “fire pot” in Chinese). As food is undoubtedly one of the most significant trademarks of any culture, four founding femmes — scroll all the way down for more intel fatale — invite you to take part in the cultural melting pot that is New York through a unique interactive food experience.
Mark your mochi! This exhibition proudly supports the Food Bank For New York City, the city’s largest hunger-relief NGO in the year of Covid-19, by donating US$1 per ticket sold.
Related (well, that might be stretching it a little)
Why is this a hot topic?
Sharing Chinese culture. Educating people about hot pot. What’s in it? Why is it so important in Chinese cuisine? Where does it actually come from? How does it stand the test of time? Who, how, huh? All things hot pot. Time to for the four Hot Pot Labbers (HPL) to really dip in.
Temper: First things first… Any HLB favorites?
HPL: Our favorite installation, Bubbles, is also the most significant one inside our exhibition. These giant orange metallic balls symbolize the boiling bubbles in a Sichuan hot pot, famous for its spicy taste. The metallic texture of the material is chosen for its luster to mimic the boiling broth.
The composition of these giant balls invites the viewer to enter the space and to immerse into a melting hot pot.
Temper: Hot pot x Chinese culture. Where does it come from? What has been its place throughout Chinese history? Is there a sense of national pride?
HPL: The general assumption is the hot pot tradition came from Mongol warriors and horsemen who were used to camping outside. They had dinner together circled around a pot on the fire, both keeping them warm and cooking their food all at the same cozy time.
Different archeological pieces of evidence also show that hot pot existed already in the Zhou dynasty (周朝; 1046-256 BC) and was a coveted dish during nobility banquets. Each person had their own personal pot (set in bronze) in which they could cook the ingredients — to their liking.
Hot pot now has become a common style of eating across Asia and to this day adheres to that same principle: fresh ingredients added to a boiling broth.
Hot pot is a trademark of Chinese culture and an essential part of everyday social life in China. China takes pride in the diversity of hot pot served throughout the country and we, as Hot Pot Labbers, wish to promote this traditional food to the rest of the world.
Related (again, using the term loosely)
Temper: What are the biggest regional differences – from broth to veggies/ meat/ dumplings?
HPL: The northern and southern regions feature different styles of hot pot that differ mainly in their soup base and dippings.
On the northern side, Beijing-style hotpot comes in No.1 with its thinly hand-sliced meat cooked boiled to perfection in a volcano-shaped copper pot. The broth is lightly seasoned using ginger, scallion, jujube, and different spices. FYI, you can observe all of these spices in our Spice Library. #majorwink
The dipping sauce is mainly made from sesame paste.
On the southern side of things hot, hot, hot, Chongqing-style hot pot proves most popular. Its hotpot base mainly consists of red chili oil and the typical dipping sauce contains sesame oil mixed with crushed fresh garlic and cilantro.
This dipping sauce is also represented in one of our Neon Lights. #winkwink
Temper: How do millennials and Gen Z feel about hot pot? What is the popularity of the cuisine like nowadays? Is this a different experience for them compared to their (grand)parents views on hot pot?
HPL: Hot pot accounts for 22 percent of the dishes sold at restaurants across China, according to a 2017 report from food industry giant Dianping-Meituan, and is still gaining popularity among millennials. As far as their (i.e. those millennials’) grandparent’s generation goes, hot pot is mostly reserved for family gatherings.
China’s millennial lifestyle is far more varied than those of their parents or grandparents. They tend to consider dinner to be more of a social activity. And when it comes to dining out, they travel in packs. Hot pot restaurants with their large round tables here make for the perfect go-to.
Moreover, millennials like for their ingredients to be fresh. Hot pot allows them to choose their favorite ones to take in during one meal.
We also showcase some of our personal favorite hot pot ingredients inside the exhibition: fish balls, mochi, lotus root, etc.
Temper: From friends to family to business, how important is this dinner time’s social aspect?
HPL: Hot pot is not just a meal; it’s also a noun and a verb. The word itself symbolizes interaction. It’s the perfect excuse for a social gathering and the most popular food for a celebration.
As interaction is the most important aspect of hot pot, our exhibition incorporated many interactive installations such as The Sudoku and The Spicy Broth.
These installations, using projectors and webcams, allow the visitors to still experience the interaction aspect of hot pot under the current Covid-19 circumstances.
Temper: Is hot pot sensitive to trends?
HPL: Hot pot is very sensitive to trends. For example, in New York, there is even a sweet hot pot base made from bubble tea soup base — because of the popularity of bubble tea shops.
Also, because of the emerging of street food trends in China, hot pot skewers are on the rise more as they are easier to carry slash eat while walking.
Our exhibition is also offering bubble tea and hot pot skewers coupons so they can go grab a bite of these new trends in nearby restaurants.
Temper: Is there a particular season for this goodness?
HPL: There is no particular season for hot pot. Every day is a hot pot day.
Temper: Next level hot pot… World domination?
HPL: Nowadays, hot pot is already popular all across the world. You can find a hot pot restaurant in almost every city around the globe. However, their visitors remain Asian, mostly.
We wish to bring the concept of hot pot to more local New Yorkers through our exhibition in a very fun and fashionable way.
Who’s hot to trot?
Shuiling Geng: Recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University, Geng started working as an equity derivatives trader. Being a regular visitor of pop-up galleries during her now five years in New York, she decided to her own pop-up gallery together with a handful of “hot children” in the City. The resulting Hot Pot Lab exhibit not only invites visitors to have fun during these times of worldwide mayhem, as well as to showcase hot pot using their personally concocted creative ways but also builds a sense of “belonging” — to the melting pot that is NYC.
Yiyun (Phoebe) Hu: Born in Sichuan Chengdu, the OG of all things “hot pot”, Hu has had a craving for the cuisine from a “solid food eating” age onwards. With a Bachelor in Economics under her belt, Hu is currently in pursuit of a degree in Visual Art Administration at NYU. Arriving in the States at 13, she quickly realized not many people knew about hot pot in New York, and Chinese hot pot restaurants’ main customers were, and are Asians. Considering food and art key components in the translation and transfer of culture and history, Hu sees Hot Pot Lab as the ultimate art tool to spread the traditional word.
Related (yea, ok, you got the gist of it by now)
Yuwen (Madison) Sun: A recent grad from the NYU School of Business, Hot Pot Lab co-founder & Art Director Sun has been living in New York for more than six years. When in her third year at NYU, she took on her first pop-up endeavor ever as a fashion buyer’s shop in Shinjuku City, Japan. As co-founder of Hot Pot Lab, Sun focused mostly on the design and storyline of the overall exhibition.
Jiaoyang (Sunny) Li: Another recent grad from the NYU School of Business, Hot Pot Lab co-founder Li was actually the one who invited Sun to join this pop-up project as its art director. Wanting to tackle this exhibit in a different way, the Fab Four turned the pop-up into not just an Instagram-able photo opp, but an educational experience using hot pot as a main traction slash teaser to gain more knowledge about traditional China (Cuisine) at large.
The Gang of Four (forgive us) first put the project cards on the table last winter, right before Covid-19 took over daily feeds, and continued its development throughout quarantine with the help from their tangy creatively talented design team. And so here they are, hot to trot and conventional not. Catchphrase?
“Melting into the pot!”
When’s this coming in hot?
Date: July 30 – August 30
Monday to Friday: 10 am – 8 pm
Weekend: 10 am – 9 pm
Where can you dip into the hotness?
Address: 57 Bond Street, l0012, New York, NY
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