With winter fast approaching, I am VERY excited for one of my favourite cold weather meals - hot pot. Hot simmering broth cooking delicious cuts of meat, seafood, fish balls, mushrooms and tofu, this family-style meal is perfectly customizable for everyone!
There are so many types and styles of hot pot! I'm just sharing a little beginner's guide based on my favourite hot pot spot - my parent's house.
What you need
I've added some Amazon links just so you have an idea (they're not recommendations) but prices are likely better if you go to an asian supermarket:
- portable heating surface - this could be a classic butane stove burner (make sure you have spare butane!) or an induction cooktop
- pot - a pot that is suitable for putting on top of flame (butane burner) or will conduct on the induction cooktop like stainless steel (check before or you might be sorry - definitely not from personal experience...)
- strainers to retrieve food - a metal strainer works well, get enough so that each person can have their own
- chopsticks - we like to have two pairs of chopsticks per person to separate raw vs. cooked food
This is the fun part - the food you want to cook and eat is totally up to you! Here's a list of some staples at my parent's house:
- Meat balls (fish, pork, beef) and fish tofu - these are pre-made and you can usually pick them up in the frozen section at most grocery stores. For the best selection, check out your local asian grocery store.
- Thinly sliced meat - for us, this is typically beef and lamb. You can pick up pre-sliced meats in nice packages at the asian grocery store or you can slice your own. PRO TIP - freeze the meat before slicing to get the most precision
- Seafood - we love the addition of mussels, scallops, cuttlefish, shrimp, and fish fillet in our hot pots. Most of these items you can find in the frozen seafood aisle - just make sure you defrost and rinse before serving
- Tofu and Bean Curd - tofu puffs, bean curd and wheat gluten (seitan) are staples for us because they absorb the broth so well.
- Vegetables and Mushrooms - there is no limit to the vegetable and mushroom options for hot pot. Our favourites are oyster mushrooms and enoki mushrooms. Lettuce and Chinese cabbage are good options but if you're more adventurous, try Tong Ho (Chinese crown daisy leaf vegetable) which is a bit peppery or Gai Choy (Chinese mustard greens) which is a bit bitter.
- Intestinal goodies - this might include tripe, liver, chicken gizzards etc.
- Noodles - when we've had enough meat or want to take a break, we like to add in some noodles. This could be udon, bean thread (thick or thin), or even little yam noodle bundles.
There is really no way to get this wrong, just browse the grocery store aisle and pick up what suits your fancy!
What about the soup?
There are many recipes online on broth and soups that you can make for hot pot. Some people even just use water! We like to just pick up hot pot soup bases for convenience. Favourites for us are the LKK Sichuan or LKK Satay. We've also frequently made our own simple soup base using HonDashi and sliced daikon. The delicious thing about hot pot is that the broth will continue to get more and more flavourful as you use it to cook with!
Don't forget the sauce!
Oh how we love sauce - there's so many combinations to suit everyone's taste. Each member of my family makes their own unique sauce typically using some soy sauce, chilli oil, sesame paste, sesame oil, XO sauce, satay, even wasabi! Some like to add a raw egg, some cilantro (not for me) and some green onions. The options are literally endless.
What to drink?
Such a delicious meal needs to be accompanied by the perfect beverage! Traditionally, Cantonese-style hot pot is accompanied by Chinese herbal tea or sour plum drink (suanmeitang) to replenish the body and balance the saltiness of the meal. Of course, our favourite is to drink our Parch Tea - Original - smooth and refreshing, or Parch Tea - Cranberry - crisp and slightly tart (like if Chinese herbal tea and suanmeitang had a very delightful offspring).
How to hot pot!
There's not much to say in this section - you basically wait until the broth is boiling, then you put your food into the pot to cook. I would recommend not rushing this process and cooking only several items at a time (ie. not dumping everything in at once). Once the food is cooked to your liking (not overcooking is key!), you take it out with your individual strainer, dip it in your personalized sauce and enjoy!
And that's it! I hope this beginner's guide to hot pot motivates you to give this mouthwatering meal a shot. We'd love to hear your tips and tricks or food ideas for hot pot too - feel free to comment to share :)