The Chinese hot pot is an important meal because not only does it bring families and friends together in a social gathering, but the meals cooked in there are healthy. Everyone has a chance to partake in the cooking process at the table which makes it a fun activity.
The Chinese hotpot basically entails a huge broth bowl with noodles. You place it at the center of the table and the cooking goes on using an induction cooker or sometimes a gas flame.
You then have your ingredients which will include veggies, meat stuff and spices ready to cook in the pot. Once the broth is ready and boiling, you will just dip it in the hot pot.
What You Should Know
- Hotpots are common in Asia but not so much in other parts of the world. This means that unless you are going to Chinese or Asian restaurants in major global towns you will not find the hot pot in other regular restaurants.
- Hot pot comes in different styles. They are regionally different. Additionally, there’s a difference in the way it’s done from one home to another.
- Never ever do a hot pot with people you don’t like. Hot pot is meant for a social gathering which means that the table should be your happy place. It’s even the best form of catching up with your friends and relatives.
- You all cook together and then share the meal.
- It’s common during the winter season. This is possibly because of the heat it will bring to the house as you are cooking and the soup keeps you heated.
- We stated that there are different regional hot pots but what we didn’t say is that the difference of the hot pot is normally in the broth and meats used. Example, the Cantonese hot pot uses fresh seafood as meat. The northern side of China, on the other hand, prefers lamb for the meat.
- Sichuan province will use Sichuan peppercorns for the numbing sensation. All the other different regions remaining also have different styles of hot pot. Remember other regions of Asia also have their own hot pot style. A good example is Japanese shabu shabu.
Types of Hot Pots
- Soup base
As earlier stated, the major difference in the hot pot is in the broth you use. Sometimes the region also determines your hot pot. Of course, there are different flavors of the hot pot broth and the trick is to choose one that suits you and your friend’s palate needs.
You can either buy it or make it at home if you like the DIY broths. If you are having a party however, it’s good to buy the broth because it eases the whole process of cooking.
The spicy broth
Of course, China is known for its spicy food and you would expect the broth to be nothing less than spicy. Almost all the broths meant for hot pots are spicy and they are readily accessible in your Asian stores.
- Sichuan spicy hot pot base
This one features the red chili oil-based broth. You expect it to be so since the Sichuanese cuisine is all about chilis, spiciness from different herbs and not to forget the peppercorns for numbing sensation.
- Chongqing spicy hot pot base
Here is another one of the red chili oil base. It’s made using beef fat and little spices. It has a strong aroma and rich flavor which is a blend of the ingredients. Since it has animal fat the broth is oilier, spicier and heavier.
Although the base is nicely spicy, it can be too harsh for beginners. History indicates that the founders of the hot pot base (manual laborer’s) used a lot of spices to cover for the fact that they used low-quality ingredients for the meal.
- Mongolian spicy hot pot
This is another one of your red chili bases that use vegetable oil to make its red chili oil base. It contains cumin and is lighter and less spicy than Sichuan spicy hot pot.
Additionally, you will have more bases made using tomatoes, seafood, soy milk and satay. These ones aren’t as common as the ones above.
Other Famous Hot Pots
Apart from the Mongolian Sichuan and Chongqing hot pots there are other variations as you will see.
- Shacha hotpot-Guangdong
This Cantonese hotpot is loved on the south side of China. Its sauce consists of fish, shrimps, peanuts, tea leaves and hot pepper. Additional ingredients include egg yolk and soy sauce. These ingredients are mostly also used in the hot pot meal.
- Chrysanthemum hot pot
This was popular in the royal families. They waited for the chrysanthemum flower to bloom and then they would know that it was time to eat the hot pot. You will have ingredients like shrimps, fish fillets, kidney and liver all cut in thin slices and placed into the hotpot.
You then add different veggies to enhance the flavor of the meal.
- Yuangyang hotpot
This is the mandarin duck hot pot. It takes the Sichuan style of hot pot meal. Here it has two parts where one part holds the red pepper stock and the other side holds the white one. Whoever is part of this meal may cook their favorite meals on whichever side of the hot pot.
The History of Hot Pot
Hot pot first came into existence during the Jin dynasty which must have been over 1000years ago. It was first introduced by the Mongolians who rode across the steppe. It’s said that at the time they used their helmets to simmer the broth with chunks of meat over open fire.
They then used their shields to sear the meat thereby giving a crusty exterior. While the Chinese resisted the Mongolians, who were coming into the country through the north, they adopted the method of cooking and have since modified it to suit their palates.
This delicious meal quickly spread across China and became one of the staples.
Why Do Chinese Love Eating the Chinese Hot Pot?
- For socializing purposes
I would say like any other human race; food is the best way to socialize. We have made sure we don’t lose our family and friend ties by using different meals to get us together at the table. One such meal is just the hot pot.
- You can enjoy different food
This is an excuse to eat different meals from a single pot. This is a typical characteristic of the Chinese; we love eating different kinds of food in one meal.
- With a single pot, you cater to all the regions
The hot pot will further save you from the hassle of thinking about meals to serve to your guests who are from different regions. Mind you, our meals differ from region to region. One region enjoys all the spicy food while another doesn’t.
Therefore, the hot pot can cater for all the people because you can have a sect for the spicy hot pot and the other people eats non-spicy. Additionally, you may have the meat hot pot and vegan or fish hotpot on the other side.
This, is therefore, the solution to serving different dinners for those who enjoy different kinds of food.
- It’s a healthy option
Remember food is mostly boiled here which means that it’s a healthier option. In fact, there are seasoning used in the hot pot that helps to get rid of minor ailments like colds.
- Keeps you warm during winter
Although hot pot is eaten through the year today, it’s best used during winter. Hot pot will not only warm your body at such times but also improve the blood circulation.
What You Need to Make the Hot Pot
Making the hot pot requires that you have the right ingredients as well as tools. Of course, if you are in the restaurant you will be given all you need and then you pay. However, when you are at home, you must know what you need to make a meal.
The tools and equipment
What you need first the moment you decide that you are going to make the hot pot is the pot and your heating system.
- The pot
While most Chinese flavors are spicy, it’s important to have the split pot. This gives leeway to those who don’t enjoy spicy food. Alternatively, you may use it to serve two different types of broths from different areas.
This will cater to your entire group because if they don’t like one type of broth, they may use another. Ensure the pot has at least 12 inches diameter. This will serve up to six of your friends. These pots are readily accessible on Amazon.
This is just one of many such pots that will serve you for the hot pot meal. Although small, it’s quite effective and it’s even electric which means you don’t need another heating stove. This makes it safer to use.
- The burner
If you don’t have the electric pot then you will need the burner on your table as this will keep cooking your meal. I know the list of portable and home pot burners is limitless in the market.
I often prefer the induction one because they are easy to clean up and they look nice in fact you won’t even notice that your food is cooking on the table. It’s safer since almost all mostly remain cool to touch. On the other hand, for portability, you may use the butane gas burners.
- The cooking utensils
You need wide strainers to drain off the broth and pick the meat, different kinds of chopsticks to pick the food. The bowls for your dipping sauce, other bowls for eating and others for your rice or noodles.
Lastly, you also need the scoops for your broth and sometimes even the meat picking.
The Ingredients for Your Hot Pot
Generally, almost all ingredients can be cooked in a hot pot. However, depending on the kind of hot pot meal you wish to cook the ingredients may differ. Note that, the more the variety of ingredients the better.
Of course, you will rarely miss a form of meat in the hot pot. You then need other ingredients for the hot pot filling.
I don’t think there’s any meat that we would say wouldn’t work for your hotpot. From beef to pork and to mutton the list is endless. However, the secret is to slice them thinly. In fact, if you have a meat slicer at home this will work better.
You can find the best meat slicer to buy in this link. If you don’t have a meat slicer then buy the readily sliced meat.
This is the most common when it comes to hot pot. In this case, the best meat is fatty beef cuts. If you didn’t cut them at home then you will find it in stores labeled as fatty beef cuts or beef cuts for hot pots.
Lamb is the second most popular kind of meat for hot pot. You want to go for the shoulder and leg parts. You will have the thin slices just like the beef cuts.
Generally, chicken is softer meat and works best if you choose the breast and thigh pieces. You can marinate it as you want before placing it in the hot pot.
You can even use the pork loin or the belly as long as you will make it thin.
This one is another one of the favorites for many. You may use tripe, intestines, tongue kidney and just about anything.
Off course this works for the Cantonese and all other people who just love their hot pot with seafood. The list of seafood you may use in the hotpot is endless. It’s upon you to choose what works best for you.
Shellfish like shrimps, crabs, oysters, scallops, clams and mussels.
Almost all kinds of fish will work. Salmon and monkfish are among the ones you can use.
What is a hot pot without the veggies?
The essence of veggies is to balance the flavors while infusing their authentic natural flavors. You can use any vegetable of your choice. However, always choose those that will maintain the texture.
Mushroom is a common kind of veggie in the broth. They have their own unique flavor. If you will use the large mushroom you should first steam them.
Tofu is for us a must-have ingredient in almost all our meals. Since tofu is cooked already, you don’t have to put it in the pot for a long time.
Leafy veggies will not only give color to your meal but also make it richer in flavor. Just leave them in their whole pieces form.
I think it’s true to say that you can use just about any veggie you think of or the ones in season.
So now we have the protein and vitamins in the hot pot but we lack the carbs. Although you may use white rice, noodles are more popular than white rice. You can use any form of white noodles with the popular ones being the needle noodles.
Rice stick noodles are equally used. If you will use the fresh noodles then it should take you about 2-3 minutes to cook. The dried ones should however be first boiled before placing in the hot pot.
As we earlier stated you may choose the broth based on the ingredients you ought to use for the hot pot. You can use just about any broth of your choosing.
- Dipping sauces
You all know you will need the dipping sauce for your meats. The rule of the thumb here is to keep it simple.
I don’t fancy the egg yolk dipping sauce but I must say I have family and friends who must have it.
Other dipping sauces include a combination of soy sauce and some drops of sesame oil without forgetting some chili flakes.
You may also use ginger scallion sauce for the seafood dipping sauce.
The dry mix dipping sauce works for the Sichuan style of hot pot. Here the dry spices are mixed all in a great ratio.
The shacha based dipping sauce is another one that works well with the meats. It is a blend of fish and shrimp that are grounded.
How to Make Hot Pot at Home
Once you have all of the above ingredients it’s time to set the hot pot for your family. Depending on the cooking surface you have, always be sure that your cooking surface suits your pot especially when using induction surface.
Since you want everything to get ready at the same time, you should place all your cut pieces at the same time in the cooked broth. Always start with the meat as it may take a little longer to cook. Next, you can throw in all the other light ingredients.
The cooking time should take no more than 5-8 minutes. Some people like to get the cooked food out of the pot after it finishes cooking.
Eating the Hot Pot
As you have already mastered what makes the hot pot meal, you want to know how to eat it like the pro you are. Understand that although the flavors may differ, the hot pot is basically served the same way.
It comes in a metal pot that you cook it in over gas, electric or induction banner. Sometimes the hot pot may have the pots fixed on the table already.
Once you have the broth ready and boiling, you may dip the meats into the broth followed by veggies and every other ingredient.
The rule of the thumb to eat as you wish. Pick the meats and dip them into the dipping sauce and into your mouth. When adding more ingredients do it slowly to avoid getting burnt.
Notice that, this meal can last up to 2 hours so you eat as you socialize. Once you have eaten all the ingredients you dipped in the broth, take time to also eat the soup or broth you made.
The eating rules
- Every individual at the table will cook in the same pot. Therefore, you should allow the other person to cook their ingredients as you wait for your turn.
- Don’t eat too much at a go. You have time and there are other people on the table with more ingredients, let every individual at least taste the meal before you go for some more.
- By all means, eat whatever you were cooking in the pot not what another person is cooking.
- We mostly use split pots thus, avoid cross dunking especially when you have both the spicy and mild meals. This could make the mild hot pot spicy in no time.
- Use the chopsticks to drop your ingredients in the pot and get them again with the same. If you don’t know how to use the chopsticks then use the spoons. Never ever use your hands.
- Avoid overcooking your meats. The best way to go about it is to swish swish your meat instead of dropping it in the broth. The meats are thinly sliced and it will take just a few seconds to cook.
- You are encouraged your favorite drinks for the hot pot. Some people say that you should use fruit juices while others say that yogurt will protect your stomach walls. I think it’s all a personal preference.
- Just cook the food you are going to eat to avoid waste. Of course, your host may cook for all of you at times but this doesn’t always happen.
- Don’t be in a hurry to put your food in the broth. Wait for it to boil as this will give you a better texture with great flavors.
- Only use sanitized chopsticks or new ones when placing the meats in the broth.
Best Restaurants for Your Hot Pot Meal
While you can make this hotpot at home, you may always wish to try it in the restaurants. Here are three of my favorite restaurants for the same.
- Huangcheng Laoma
Physical address: 20 Qintai road, Qingyang District, Chengdu province.
This is one of the most famous restaurants for the hot pot. In fact, if you are looking for the Sichuan style of hot pot then you must stop by this restaurant.
- Haidilao hot pot
Physical address: Grandbuy Gold Jewelry Building, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou, China
Not only does it give you a great meal that is filling in an ambient environment but the service is great as well. It’s a famous chain restaurant in China and for a reason, they will give you a solid food selection in large portions.
- Little sheep hot pot
Physical address: Chaoyang District Xibahe Zhongli 34, Beijing, China
This is a chain restaurant best known for the hot pot meal. You will not only find it in major cities in China but also across major global cities. If you want the Mongolian style hot pot then you want to visit this restaurant.
I’m sure with this article you have all the info you need on the hot pot meal. Remember, you can make it as spicy as you wish or as mild as you want. Now that you know it all, have a great hot pot party.