Hot pot is a celebration in itself yet creates lasting memories of special occasions. My 23rd birthday being one of them. Sprawled out on the floor, sharing from this single pot brings people together in a way that transcends eating "family style" at a table and chairs. I watch the gray shrimp turn a mouth-watering pink while picking up some Vietnamese words or two. Ngon qua. So delicious. And it's even tastes better dipped in chili sauce as ubiquitous on the Vietnamese table (or floor) as ketchup in an American diner. Let's not also forget nuoc mam, or fish sauce, the pungent hazel liquid, the traditional staple condiment in Vietnamese cooking. By itself, I still have yet to acquire its taste but mixed with a little vinegar, lime juice, sugar, and chilies, it is quite a wonderfully delicate burst of flavor.
At the end of the hot pot meal enters noodles, varying from the wispy-like rice noodles to packaged instant noodles added to each bowl along with the nutrient-rich broth. Best enjoyed slurping from your bowl to your heart's delight.