When life moves indoors, we start to look forward to all the typical Swiss winter dishes - from raclette to fondue chinoise.
With the winter holidays just around the corner, chestnuts are roasting, and Zürich's Lucy illuminations are already sparkling like diamonds in the sky. The magnificent Swarovski Christmas tree at Zürich HB is my first stop to get a taste of the festive season. And meanwhile, the smell of mulled wine and raclette lies in the air as Christmas markets in Switzerland are in full swing.
Grocery stores are piling up blocks of ham, oranges, mandarins, mangoes, passion fruits, dates, coconuts, peanuts, walnuts, and pomegranates. My favorite edible ruby comes in normal size or in XXL. I have not seen any size in between.
At most shops, towers of chocolate bars and boxes or pralines are the centerpieces. And wait until you see the cheese fondue section... When it comes to cheese fondue recipes, many Swiss will blend their own preferred selection of cheese, white wine, and secret spices. Others revert to instant fondue, or they might pick up a dairy farmer’s mix from a local honesty shop.
Thinly sliced meat for fondue chinoise meat fondue
I'm not following the cheese trail, though. Instead, I run to the freezers to grab a box of thinly sliced meat, beautifully rolled and packed like cigarettes, for fondue chinoise.
To keep their proud tradition of cheese fondue untouched, the Swiss call this boiling meat broth "Chinese Fondue."
Or, judging from the French naming fondue chinoise, maybe Asian-style cooking was initially tried by French-speaking Swiss? But instead of chopsticks, they used those long cheese fondue forks...
As a Newly Swissed Japanese (I mean, a noodle soup and meat lover surrounded by stinky cheese), I could not have survived Swiss winters without this version of the Japanese shabu-shabu dish...
What meat to use in fondue chinoise?
Is there vegetarian fondue chinoise?
Of course. Instead of dipping meat, here are some vegetarian ingredients for fondue chinoise:
Fondue chinoise: how much meat per person?
It is recommended to order 250 g of meat per person. For the best quality meat, pre-order it from a local butcher ahead of the holidays.
How to make fondue chinoise in Switzerland
Some Swiss families cook the curled-up meat sheets in hot oil. In my family, we use beef broth with some herbs and wine. In fact, Grosi Heidi, my grandmother-in-law, orders fresh meat at the butcher for our holiday gathering - no frozen meat here! See above for the typical fondue chinoise meat platter she would present.
Once the broth starts boiling in the pot placed in the middle of the table, everyone gets a numbered or color-coded fork. This system helps to keep track of your own meat among the five other forks stirring in the hot pot...
Next, we would dip the boiled meat in mustard sauce, curry sauce, cocktail sauce, or a horseradish dip. Really, the options are limitless and I am sure other families have their own secret sauce. (No pun intended!) Here is a recipe collection for the most common sauces.
For a next-level fondue chinoise experience, I want to add some Japanese sauces like su-joyu (soy sauce + rice vinegar), and ponzu (citrus juice + fish bouillon + soy sauce + sake + sugar) to the table. Mexican salsa or Korean kimchi must be good with pork, too.