Hot pot is a delicious and fun communal eating experience that is thought to hail from Eastern China. Typically, it involves a huge bowl of broth placed in the center of a table that is heated there via induction or flame. Ingredients ranging from raw vegetables to thinly sliced meats are also placed on the table (or sometimes on a nearby cart) so that diners can submerge them in the broth to cook before eating.
How to Eat Hot Pot
When everyone is sharing the same communal hot pot bowl, best practices include the following:
•Try to eat what you’ve placed in the bowl (it’s easy to lose track of food when it’s simmering, of course) to the best of your ability.
•If the bowl is split so that it can handle spicy on one side and a mild broth on the other, do not cross dunk. A mild broth can get spicy really quickly and vice versa.
•Drop hot pot ingredients in with chopsticks. Fish them out with chopsticks or hot pot spoons.
•It is easy to overcook (though frankly a lot of meat can handle this) thinly-sliced meats so you may want to simply swish it around quickly with your chopsticks instead of dropping it in.
Each diner may also elect to prepare a little bowl of dipping sauce for themselves, if available. The idea is to dunk the newly cooked hot pot ingredients into the sauce before eating. Some hot pot restaurants have make-your-own sauce bars while others do not. A typical combination is sesame oil with a little bit of soy sauce.
Some of the photos in this post are from a popular chain called Faigo that we ate at in Beijing. Faigo’s claim to fame is that everyone has their own mini hot pot which allows each person to pick their own broth style. While very cool, this isn’t common.
While it is certainly a popular Chinese dish that you’ll stumble upon when traveling in China, it isn’t terribly common elsewhere. This is a shame because while it sounds a bit like fondue, it’s far more glorious. We’ve love it so much that we even figured out how to make hot pot easily at home.
What Goes in Hot Pot
The answer to what goes in hot pot is entirely up to you. It starts with a soup base that can be prepared with a mild stock. Or, you can dial up the spicy in a manner that will blow your top off. I recommend somewhere in between.
Common hot pot ingredients include various types of thinly-sliced meats (chicken, pork, beef, lamb), vegetables (leafy greens, lettuce, pak choy, mushrooms), noodles, dumplings, firm tofu and seafood including shellfish and fish balls.
When preparing hot pot at home, we typically take a look around the Asian market to see which pre-sliced meats look good (or are on sale) and go from there.