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Friends and Flavors: Chinese Hot Pot

From Our Kitchen

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Chinese hot pot consists of cooking meat, vegetables, noodles, tofu, and seafood in a communal pot of hot, flavored broth. The items are often served with additional broth, rice, and sauce options. The dish is usually enjoyed with a group of people to celebrate Chinese New Year, but is also a common winter meal.

There are many regional versions of hot pot throughout China. What makes one different from another is the broth, as well as the specific meats, seafood, and vegetables. In colder Northern China, lamb is a common choice. Cantonese hot pot is heavy on fresh seafood. Mongolian-style hot pot is known for its flavorful broth. The city of Chongqing is famous for its use of Szechuan peppercorns and other mouth-numbing ingredients.

Here’s how to make a Chinese hot pot:

Step 1. Gather your equipment. You’ll need a wide, shallow pot and a burner to keep the broth simmering at the table, as well as basic utensils, including chopsticks, tongs, strainers, spoons, and bowls for dipping sauces and individual portions.

Step 2. Prepare your broth. Make a simple broth by boiling water with vegetables or bones and adding herbs and seasonings. Boil the ingredients until the water is reduced and infused with the flavors, then strain. Store-bought stock can also be used. The broth will be used to cook the hot pot ingredients.

Step 3. Select your ingredients. This is where you can have some fun. Choose items that you enjoy, including vegetables, meats, and seafood. Popular options are: beef, pork, shrimp, scallops, tofu, leafy greens, bok choy, mushrooms, snow peas, kabocha squash, tomatoes, and quarter cobs of corn. Be sure to slice meats thinly to ensure they cook fully.

Step 4. Don’t forget the noodles and condiments! Noodles can be cooked during the meal, or cooked in the broth at the end of the meal. The noodles will be infused with the flavors of all the ingredients cooked in the broth. Any type of noodle can be used: rice noodles, egg noodles, ramen, udon, or glass noodles. Place a variety of condiments on the table and encourage guests to create their own dipping sauces. Typical condiments include: satay sauce, sesame oil, hot mustard, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and sweet chili sauce. You can also include chopped garlic and scallions.

Step 5. Get cooking! Transfer the broth into the pot and place it on the burner on the table to keep it hot. A single hot pot works well for four to eight people, depending on the size of the pot. Add foods to lightly boiling broth. Cook foods thoroughly (generally, nothing requires more than a few minutes to cook) and avoid putting too much food into the pot at once, as it will cause uneven heat distribution. When the broth is refilled, wait until it comes to a boil before cooking.

Since everyone at the table may be using the same broth, think about those who have a food allergy. Prepare a separate pot with broth for those who need it. You can also refill the pot one last time at the end of the meal and dump in all the leftover ingredients for soup and noodles the next day!

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