What’s the Art of Hot Pot? How to Eat Hot Pot?

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What’s the art of hot pot? I personally think the art of hotpot is simply to have fun and enjoy the experience. As people gather around a steaming hotpot, everyone becomes a team player—they participate in both cooking and eating. At the same time, they share stories and laughter.

Hotpot is called huoguo in Chinese, which literary means firepot. It originated in Mongolia more than 1000 years ago. Many varieties of hotpot exist, as different regions of China have their methods and ingredients. Traditionally, people gather and eat around one large pot placed in the center of a table. This circular formation symbolizes unity and good luck for the whole family.

When you eat hotpot in restaurants nowadays, either a simmering pot of broth is placed in the middle of your table, or a mini hot pot is given to each individual. I like the mini hot pot better because I can then just create my magic and turn my hotpot into what I like best.

I’d like to share some of my preferences for enjoying hotpot:

How do I order?

– Broth: Chicken, Hot Oil Spicy (Ma La), Chinese Herbs, or Combination (Yuan Yang)

– Protein:

a. Meat Slices: Beef Slices, PorkSlices, Lamb Slices, Chicken Slices

b. Surimi: Fish balls, Squid balls, Pork balls, Beef balls, Chicken Balls

c. Seafood: Crab, Shrimps, Squid 

– Different types of tofu

– Veggies: Chinese cabbage, spinach, mushrooms

– Dumplings 

– Noodles

– Sauce: the restaurant either gives you sauce or you can mix your own. The most popular ones are Chinese BBQ (Sha Cha), ponzu, and sesame sauce. My favorite is ponzu sauce, a citrus-seasoned soy sauce, and I usually add cilantro and scallions to it. You can personalize your sauce with almost any herbs.

How to cook your hot pot?

– Cook the harder textured and more durable foods first, including cabbage, surimi, dumplings, and tofu. Wait until the water is boiling before adding them. You can either throw everything together or add small portions at a time.

– When everything is boiled, it’s best to take some of the food out and eat it. Then you can add some other softer textured and less durable foods, like seafood and meat slices. Seafood usually cooks in a minute or two and the thinly sliced meat takes about 30 seconds to be fully cooked.

– Repeat steps 1 and 2 at your own pace.

– I usually add the noodles last because they tend to soak up the broth. But if you want to eat them earlier that’s fine too. When the broth level reduces, you can always ask for more. It’s free.

– Some people like to drink the broth at the end of their meal. Some like to drink it with their noodles. I like to drink it intermittently throughout my meal. 

Remember, the key to hotpot is to have fun. You can prepare it any way you want. You are the magician and you are in charge! Enjoy!

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