Hot pot (also known as: Chinese fondue or fire pot) is one of my favorites during the winter months. It’s also great for groups and festive times like a family Christmas dinner!
Hot pot, as the name suggests, involves a simmering hot pot placed over either a portable gas stove or an electric stove, at the center of the dining table. The pot is filled with some type of stock (chicken, beef, vegetable or anything of choice). At the Asian supermarkets they also sell package soup bases that are made especially for hot pot. However, sometimes just some simple chicken broth works wonders as well.
Surrounding the simmering hot pot is a large variety of dishes involving vegetables, raw meats, seafoods, mushrooms, fish balls, etc. The list goes on and on.
Here are some ingredients we used:
- Thinly sliced lamb, beef
- Fish fillets
- Fish balls
- Shrimp balls
- Mushrooms (several varieties like enoki, shiitake, portabello, white)
- Tofu (fried tofu cubes, firm tofu)
- Shallots, scallions
- Vegetables (we had six varieties of leaf vegetables. To name a few: napa cabbage, chinese cabbage round leaf, watercress, chrysanthemum.)
There’s a lot of regional variations on how to eat hot pot, but the basic concept remains.
A crowd of hungry diners hover comfortably around the dining table. The food is placed into the hot pot and the food is cooked right at the table. (Note: Regarding the raw meats, I suggest utilizing a separate pair of chopsticks for handling the raw meats and for eating.) When the food is ready, the diner removes it from the pot and eats it with a dipping sauce of choice.
For removing food from the pot, I suggest using these wired mesh small ladles they sell at the Asian markets. These wired ladles are used especially for hot pot purposes, very inexpensive and are commonly available in sets. Each diner can have their own mini ladle to pick out the food and strain out excess liquid. It’s also useful for cooking food that might get lost into the big pot.
There are a lot of options for dipping sauces. Here are some suggestions: soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame sauce, peanut sauce, barbecue (sha-cha) sauce, hot sauce. To get a little more creative, you can also combine a variety of sauces.
My dipping sauce usually consists of a raw egg mixed with barbecue (sha-cha) sauce and either some hot sauce or hot peppers.
Ready to dig in!
After dipping and cooking all the foods, the soup that results in the pot is the best part. It’s filled with nutrients and flavor from all the ingredients. If the food handling is done carefully, the soup can actually be used as a soup base for noodles.