Hot pot is one of my favourite meals to have with a group of people (along with potlucks and BBQs). I had hot pot on Sunday to round off a great wknd (or start off a really good week, take your pick) with a few of my friends. It is conducive to good conversation, and a great way to eat A LOT of stuff. So here is a breakdown of how it works, what to eat, and why I love it.
How it works:
Everyone gathers around a portable gas stove (you can buy these at most Chinese grocery stores or Canadian Tire; they run off cans of gas that you just plug into the stove) and you have a big pot of boiling water or broth. Then, there is a spread of a variety of veggies and meat and dumplings and such and you just stick in whatever you want to eat, wait for it to cook, and then scoop it back out and dip it in your custom-made sauce and EAT UP. Simple. First off, the number of people required. I suggest you have at least 4-5 people to do this. Any less, and you won’t be able to buy a good spread of food and eat it all. We had five people and this worked really well and we had one stove between all of us. If you do this with a bigger group (8-10) you should have two stoves going. More than 10 people, and I don’t enjoy hot pot as much because then there are too many conversations happening at once and I don’t like missing out! Get one (or 2) portable gas stoves. Make sure everyone has 2 pairs of chopsticks: one to eat with, and one to cook with. Don’t want to be eating with chopsticks that touch raw meat! Also, get several little nets to help scoop things out. I wish I took a picture of it, but I was so excited for hot pot, I forgot to bring my camera, so maybe next time. I also recommend having a big bowl or plate just for putting the cooked food in, seeing as most of the time, you’ll just throw in a bunch of food for everyone, and you can scoop it up and pass it around to everyone when done. This is usually a winter dinner, but I’ll have hot pot anytime (just turn on the air con in the summer).
Also, a note on dipping sauces. Hot pot is fun because you eat whatever you like, and dip it into a sauce that you make for yourself. Common ingredients for sauce include:
-hot sauce: chili oil, sriracha sauce, something spicy to that effect
-peanut butter, peanuts
You just take a small bowl and add whatever you like together. Most people start with soy sauce and go from there. I go heavy on the hot chili oil and like to add green onion to it.
What to eat: my recommendations
Keep in mind I am simply listing what I love to eat at hot pot. Eat whatever your heart desires.
-veggies: watercress and nappa cabbage are my favs. Use whatever you like.
-mushrooms: I like the “golden mushrooms” (literal translation from Chinese). They are thin, long mushrooms with a tiny cap. But again, use whatever you like.
-fishballs, meatballs, dumplings: there is such a wide variety of all of these, pick your favs from the freezer section of your local Asian grocery. Fish paste is also fun to use.
-tofu: I like medium-firm tofu and the fried tofu puffs; you can also get stuffed tofu, that’s quite good as well -thinly sliced meat: beef is my favourite, but of course, get what you like. Lamb and pork is also popular.
-seafood: squid, shrimp, mussels, octopus are all my favs. Oysters are also good.
-noodles: udon, egg noodles, vermicelli, use whatever you like. I also like the mini vermicelli bundles.
Note: some people do not like to drink the broth. I do. After you have cooked everything above in the water (or broth, if you started with a broth mix), it turns into a wonderfully flavourful broth. I like to keep it and use it to make noodles the next day, or just drink like soup. YUMMY!
Why I love Hot Pot:
The sheer variety of food that you can have at hot pot is one reason. But it’s just so FUN. Having a bunch of your friends together and chatting while you sit around the pot for a couple hours, munching on so much food is just good times. And because everyone eats whatever they want, even picky eaters will find something they like (though of course, I ate everything at the table. I was also the last to finish eating-figures). So, go on, give it a try.