Hot pot is very popular in China, as well as many Asian countries. It features a simmering pot of soup in the middle of the table. People dip thinly sliced meat or vegetables in the pot for a brief moment, and then enjoy with their own dipping sauce.
Since there is literally a stove in the middle, hot pot is especially popular during winter times. When it’s snowing outside, nothing beats a steamy, spicy hotpot. It’s also relatively easy to prepare, because everybody is practically cooking their own food while chatting at the dinner table.
In this video, Li Ziqi showed a hot pot dinner after the first snow of the season:
Many Asian Americans cook hot pots at home. It’s not difficult at all, because anything you need for a hotpot is readily available in the U.S. Asian food grocery stores, such as 99 Ranch and H-Mart, may even have dedicated sections just for hotpot foods.
What if you’ve never tried hot pot at home before? Well, here is what you’ll need:
Hot Pot Stove
Electrical stoves made specifically for hot pots are really convenient, and they need very little maintenance. The downside is that you need to have an electrical plug nearby, and the wire may be unsightly if you have to leave it on the table. Also pay attention to the power. 1500W is probably good enough for most people. If the power is too low, it takes longer to cook and may ruin the freshness of hotpot food if you have to leave them in the pot for a while.
Another popular choice is a Propane or Butane Portable Burner. They can be powerful stoves, but just like a grill, you need to keep spare fuel cans. Also it put flames right on the table so safety must be considered, especially if you have children.
Recently induction cookers are gaining popularity and they should work well for hot pot as well. And it’s probably the safest method since there is no direct flame or high heat.
In theory any pot will work, as long as they’re deep enough. Frying pans are not good. For induction cooktops, obviously you need one that’s compatible with induction cookers.
The most popular type is the one that has two separated compartments. This allows you to prepare two types of soups at the same time, for example, one is spicy and the other is not.
This is the broth that you boil in the hot pot. You can just use hot water if you’d like, but it’s a good idea to put seasoning and some basic ingredients like mushrooms, shrimps, fish balls etc. to add flavors. Some stores sell hot pot seasoning packets that can come in handy.
Traditionally, Chinese people don’t use common utensils, especially when family members are eating together. So everyone will just dip their own chopsticks in the hot pot. However, more and more people are starting to use a common set of utensils just for the pot, like the one below:
This is the type of sauce that each person put in their own plate to go with the meat from the hot pot. You can make any type of dipping sauce, really. Sesame sauce seems to a popular one, but there’re many, many varieties.
Lamb, beef, sea food……anything is good for hot pot! If you have a heavy and sharp kitchen knife, like the one Li Ziqi is using, you can slice frozen meat yourself. The thinner, the better. The idea is to cook the meat as quickly as possible.
Alternatively you can buy pre-sliced, over-priced hot pot meat from a grocery store. For Chinese people, cow louver (牛百叶) is another popular choice. Toward the end, people tend to cook some rice noodle to complete the meal.