See, what hotpot is a form of communal eating sort of in the mold of something like Korean barbecue, or perhaps a cookout.and it’s one of the tastiest ways that you can feed a crowd with a minimum amount of hassle.
How (and Why) You Should Hot Pot At Home?
Now of course, when I say this word ‘hotpot’, for a lot of you your mind might immediately jump to that cauldron of bubbling heat that is Sichuan-style hotpot.
And while we do absolutely love that stuff too, ‘hotpot’ is way more than just that.
You can find hotpots everywhere from Japan in the form of shabu shabu, to Thailand in the form of Thai Suki or ‘steam boats’.
And yet, despite its ubiquity throughout Asia, hotpot is certainly not without its critics: author Fuschia Dunlop has called the continued popularity of hotpot restaurants a negative, and food critic Choy Lan in Hong Kong infamously labeled them a cooking method that “totally lacks cultural significance”.
But if you listen to most criticisms in the West, they generally seem to revolve around “What kind of restaurant makes you cook your own food?”
And in some ways, I do kinda get it. If you’re new to the cuisine, a Sichuanese fly restaurant or a Japanese Izakaya is gonna offer a lot more in the way of new, interesting foods than a pot of bubbling broth is.
But the way I would think about hotpot is more like a cookout – if you’re anything like me, some of the most fun I’ve ever had cooking and eating are with friends or family circled around a grill or a campfire.
Hotpot is in that tradition.
But the big benefit for you, the cook? It takes, like… all the pressure off you.
For example, if you were cooking a normal Chinese-style meal for, I dunno, your extended family – for eight people or so that’d be something like seven dishes that you’d need to whip up.
Sometimes you might be down for the project, but that can get pretty stressful to execute.
Much less stressful is making (or even buying) a great hotpot base, slicing some stuff up, and gathering around a pot.
A proper feast for a fraction of the effort.
But where we do partially agree with some of the critics is that while it’s definitely fun some of the time, you don’t have to always pay restaurant premiums for someone else to slice your beef for you.
So in a sec, I’ll be handing it off to Steph who’ll show you how to approach making a basic store-bought-base hotpot at home, followed by how you can make your own soup base if you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, and finally a cool example from the Guizhou province of how you can turn that basic soup base into something a bit more interesting.
So! Let’s assemble some hotpot. The easiest way to do it? Well, you can go to an Asian supermarket, and pick up some hotpot base. You’re gonna add water to this stuff to make your pot.
There’s a bunch of different brands and flavors so feel free to explore outside of China, the brand Haidilao is readily available and solid enough.
Second thing you’ll need is some kind of portable burner.
We just use this one – the little butane camper burner we use in the videos but electric ones are also a popular choice.
For the pot itself, nothing fancy – just use whatever pot you have, your dutch oven would totally just work fine.
Next, choose the stuff that you want to put in your hotpot.
Referring to what hotpot restaurants serve would give you a pretty good idea of what’s common, so we’ll have an example menu in the description box.
So for example, thinly sliced beef or lamb rolls are pretty classic they’re frozen meat cut into 1mm thin pieces with a deli slicer.
The easiest way to get that thinness is to just go get the pre-sliced ones. If you can’t find it or don’t want to buy frozen hotpot meat, you can also just thinly slice up some fresh meat yourself, but don’t stress, ‘cause not all meat needs to be paper-thin.
For us, our hotpot must-haves include tofu puffs or skins, frozen meatballs, some root vegetables, and some greens but again, remember to check out the description box for a more complete discussion.
Then once all your stuff is ready? Just mix your base according to the package, bring it to a boil, and move it over to your burner. Start your relaxing and enjoyable meal over the steamy pot,chill with your friends, watch a movie, cook your food bit by bit, slow down and relax.
Stuff like root vegetable can go in first because it takes a while to cook, and the rest of your food can be added in little by little.
If you’re worried about raw meat cross-contamination, you can just use a separate pair of chopsticks just for that purpose.
You would dip your food with dipping sauces as you eat. At hotpot restaurants, they have a whole section dedicated to dipping sauces, so there’s no way we can be comprehensive.
For spicy hotpot, my favorite is adding minced garlic with toasted sesame oil and for a non-spicy pot, you can’t go wrong with some chili soy sauce, which’s simply, mixing fresh heaven-facing chili with light soy sauce.
So right, now that we have some basic ideas about how to assemble a hotpot meal, let’s move onto the next level: making your own base, first, let’s do a non-spicy Cantonese-style pork bone broth.
Here we have 500g pork bone. First, soak it in water for half an hour to draw out some myoglobin and give it a cleaner flavor. Next, put it in a pot. add cool water to it, bring it to a boil together, and simmer for a couple minutes.
Then take it out, and give it a rinse.
Next, long yau. Get your stock pot piping hot, shut off the heat, add in the oil… here about a half tbsp andheat on medium, add in your bones. Fry it for 2-3 minutes or until lightly browned, then add in 2.5 liters or ten cups of hot boiled water.
Hot waterhere helps the protein and fat emulsify, and it’s a very important trick to get a nice milky stock.
Now, bring that to a boil. Add in two inches ginger, smashed, a couple 2-inch-section dacong a.k.a. welsh onion for sweetness.
If you can’t find that Datong, you can use 1/8 of a white onion to replace it… and plus now add in one tbsp of liaojiu aka Shaoxing wine.
Cover, heat on medium low, cover and let it simmer for at least 2 hours.
Then for some extra flavor, at the one-hour mark, get about 500g of daikon – peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks – add in the broth and let them simmer together for about an hour.
After that time, season the broth with half a tbsp salt and 1 tsp chicken bouillon powder, plus optionally a sprinkle of white pepper, and your pork bone hotpot base is ready to serve.
Now let’s move onto our third one here, a very interesting hotpot base from the Guizhou province – Guiyang-style pickled greens and beans pot – 酸菜豆米火锅.
So, first get 120g of dry lima beans, then give them a rinse and soak overnight in the fridge.
Next day, to a pot of 2 liters of boiling water, add in the beans, bring it to a heavy simmer, cover, and let it cook on medium-low for two hours or till it’s soft enough to mash.
Or alternatively, you can use a pressure cooker to do this job if you have one.
Two hours later now, our beans are ready. Scoop out the beans, save half, and mash half with a cleaver. And don’t toss the cooking liquid. we’ll need to reserve two cups of this cooking liquid for our base later.
Now let’s fry the base.
As always, first, long you. First, get your wok piping hot, shut off the heat, add in the oil, here about 1 tbsp, and give a swirl to get a nice nonstick surface.
And now, heat on medium, add in about 200g of pork belly.
These were pork belly just sliced into half a centimeter pieces and marinated with a tsp of soy sauce.
Fry it for about 5 minutes, or until the pork belly has rendered out some of it’s fat… then take them out and set aside.
Next, add in 3 cloves of garlic and 2 inches of ginger, both roughly minced. Fry it till fragrant, and then add in about 150g of minced Chinese pickled mustard green, aka suancai, which you should be able to find at most Chinese supermarkets.
Now fry this together until it’s fragrant, about a minute, then add in the mashed beans.
Fry it together for about another minute. Then take it out and set it aside.
Now get your serving pot, add in 2 cups of the bean cooking liquid and 4 cups stock.
You can use whatever stock that’s available to you, they like to use pork bone stock in Guizhou. you can use the one we showed earlier in the video, but remember to check out the notes on how to use that.
While bringing it to a boil, add in the fried bean paste and the remaining beans. After it’s at a boil, add in some corn, put the fried pork belly back in, add in one sliced tomato, and two sprigs of green garlic sliced into 1-inch sections.