For me, cold and windy weather means one thing: It’s hot pot season. The concept of hot pot is simple. You set a pot of simmering broth on a portable burner in the middle of the table. Around it are plates of meat, seafood, and vegetables, all prepped and ready to be cooked in the broth.
There are different styles of hot pot around Asia, and even within a given country, each household will do it a little differently, but if there’s one universal hot pot rule, it would be this —you don’t “hot pot” with people you don’t like. Like fondue, hot pot is one of the most social of dining formats. Not only are you gathered at one table sharing a meal, but you’re cooking your food together in a shared pot.
There are many regional versions of hot pot throughout China. What makes one different from another is the broth and the specific meats used. In colder Northern China, lamb is a common choice. Cantonese hot pot, on the other hand, is heavy on fresh seafood, including live shrimp, oysters, and squid. Mongolian-style hot pot is known for its flavorful broth, which contains ingredients like goji berries, jujubes, and a mix of herbs. The city of Chongqing is famous for its use of Sichuan peppercorns and other mouth-numbing ingredients. (And that’s just China—there’s a whole world of other hot pot traditions, like Japan’s shabu-shabu, Thailand’s Thai suki, and more.)
To make a hot pot feast at home requires little more than some planning and prep work. First, let’s go over the equipment you need, then look at the ingredients (meat, seafood, vegetables, etc.) and how to prep them for hot pot. Next, we’ll cover the different kinds of broth you can choose, as well as the sauces to serve alongside. At the end, we’ll go over table setting and the basics of hot pot etiquette.
Let’s get hot-pot hopping!