I'm a Buddhist, so in theory, I shouldn't believe in fate. In conversational vernacular, karma has come to mean "what comes around, goes around," as though there's some Jedi force out there that causes bad things to happen to people who do bad things. This is not to say that I don't believe in The Force — on the contrary, we have our very own Sith apprentice here at home — it just doesn't apply in this circumstance. But I digress.
By definition, karma is simply the sanskrit word for "action." It's probably true that bad actions eventually cause unfavorable results for the people who enact them, but really what this concept gets at is the fact that consequences exist, and we humans therefore control the outcomes of our karma, whether good or bad. That being said, there are times when events seem to conspire to ensure certain outcomes. Here's a case study:
During my last trip to LA, my best friend and I shared a dish of spicy beef tendon at 15 Cats Cafe in Alhambra. It was a cold dish, dressed in a delicious sauce of numbing sichuan peppercorn that I love. She proceeded to tell me that in Sichuan, they are famous for hot pot broth made with plenty of sichuan peppercorns and chili peppers/oil, and that she regularly prepares this mala (meaning "numbing" and "spicy") hot pot at home. Enlightening! I was intrigued, and flagged that idea as one to try when I got back home. Not a week later, another friend described a Mongolian hot pot restaurant in the East Bay that has become her family's weekend dinner tradition. They, too, serve that spicy, tingly soup for dipping and cooking your delectables. But we rarely make it out to the other side of the Bay, so again it was an idea earmarked for later use. My acupuncturist and I love to talk about food together, and one day she mentioned that she and her husband often prepare hot pot at home in San Mateo, especially when the weather gets cold. That reminded me of the restaurant about which my friend had recently informed me. "Oh, Little Sheep!" she exclaimed. "I love that place...they have one in downtown San Mateo!" These three encounters were too serendipitous to ignore. That same weekend, we trekked down to San Mateo and endured the hour-long wait for our own meal of mala hot pot, and it was like meeting my food soul mate (admittedly, I have many, but this is definitely in the top five).
So was it fate guiding me towards yet another amazing meal? Buddhism would say this is a series of karma with the final one being our decision to hop in the car for our foodie field trip. I could believe either — in the end, the outcome was a very happy one! For the recipe, read on.