Mam Kho Ca Keo (Fermented Fish Hotpot)

They say hotpot is too hot for the summer; I say hotpot is good for any time of the year, particularly the savory Mam Kho Ca Keo. I used to hate Ca Keo because of the bitter tang, but now I can’t have enough of that distinctive flavor. Unlike other fishes, nothing is wasted from Ca Keo. Even the fragile bone is comestible. Beside the fish, the eggplant is also scrumptious, especially when the Mam Kho’s broth infiltrated into the pale pulp. Of course, the hotpot wouldn’t be complete without the herbs, mixed greens, banana blossom, vermicelli and a bottle of beer. More than one beer might be required to wash down the salted broth (mainly when it gets thickened) and to cool down the explosive Ot Hiem (hot peppers). Just had Mam Kho Ca Keo two days ago, and now I am hankering for more.