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I met a friend for lunch today in a Hong Kong restaurant. He wanted me to try a dish that originated from his region of mainland China. This dish is something that I have never, in all of my years, tried in the United States! Off came the tablecloth and within a minute our table had been transformed! What I experienced is the Chinese version of our fondue minus the hot oil and it is YUMMY (and healthy).
Chinese Hot Pot (simplified Chinese: 火锅; traditional Chinese: 火鍋; pinyin: huǒ guō), sometimes called steamboat, is their version of fondue. A large pot is put on the center of your table where it simmers a soup broth while you cook all of your ingredients. We tried everything – meats, vegetables, tofu, noodles, dumplings.
According to Wikipedia this has been a part of their culture and diet for centuries; it boasts a history of more than 1,000 years! Hot pot cooking seems to have spread to northern China during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-906). In time, regional variations developed with different ingredients such as seafood. By the Qing Dynasty, the hot pot became popular throughout most of China. I was told that the Northern Chinese prefer the spicy version with chili peppers, while the Southern Chinese prefer the non-spicy version (they prefer sweet to spice). We got the split pot version so that I could try preference...the spicy!


Prawns are a symbol of happiness (sounds like “ha” in Cantonese, 笑 “哈哈”).
Long noodles signify longevity. Do not cut them to shorter lengths!
Fish & abalone are a symbol of abundance (年年有余/年年包有余).
Dumplings are a symbol of wealth because they resemble ingots, an ancient Chinese currency (yuan bao 元宝;).

For those of you experiencing cold winter days, this might be a fun remedy for bringing family and friends together around the table to eat! It is great for a small or large gathering (here the gatherings range from 2 to 20 people), is ideal for potluck (the host makes the soup base and everyone brings a meat and veggie), you sit around the table cooking so it gives you plenty of time to talk and bond and it is a very healthy meal that is fun to cook!

Prep time: 1 hour
Eating time: 1 to 2 hours depending upon the fun and conversation!


Buy the needed ingredients for your soup base and whatever items that you would like to add to it to cook for your dinner.

Soup Base Ingredients:

1 packet Chinese herbs for stewing chicken soup (炖鸡汤料) - yuzhu (20g), huai shan (20g), dang shen (20g), dang gui (20g), gan cao (15g) and qi zi/wolfberries (16g) *go to an international farmers market to find, if you can’t find these think about different spices you use in other soup bases
3 slices ginger
4 garlic cloves, peeled and slightly bruised
10 chopped chili peppers *more or less depending on the level of spice you like
4 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp sesame oil (reduce the amount if you want less “heat”)
1/2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Chinese wine (hua tiao/shao hsing) *optional

Place chicken broth, sesame oil, light soy sauce, and Chinese wine in pot. Stir to mix well. Scatter washed Chinese herbs, ginger, garlic and chili peppers into the broth. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 30 minutes

Ingredients to add to your soup base, which become the dinner that you eat…

Meats and protein vary, and can include:

Thinly sliced beef, pork, chicken, lamb, goat
Beef balls
Fish balls
Shrimp balls
Fish slices
Tofu, Tofu skin
Egg dumplings (dàn jiǎo)
Poached eggs
Kamaboko and crab stick

Starches include (and not limited to):

Chinese noodles
Cellophane noodles

Vegetables include (and not limited to):

Bok Choy
Choy Sum
Napa cabbage
Bean sprouts
Green beans
Snake beans
Varieties of mushrooms, straw mushroom, enoki mushrooms, Shiitake, Chinese black mushrooms, Golden mushrooms
Thinly sliced potatoes

Condiments (and not limited to):

Hoisin sauce
Soy sauce
Vinegar (white or black)
Coriander / Cilantro (or xiāng cài)
Sesame oil
White pepper
Sa cha sauce

Other needed items:

Chinese soup spoons
Small bowls
Serving & stirring spoons
Serving chopsticks
Big pot & Heating element (or fondue pot)

Now the fun comes into play! It’s time to put your “Top Chef” skills to work! Arrange all of the meats and vegetables that you want to cook in the broth. Cut the meats into very, very thin slices and vegetables into small chunks. If you stick to the spirit of the meal you will be eating with chopsticks out of a small bowl!
Add a bit of pizzazz to your presentation by arranging the food choices on the platter in a nice display. You can slice, chop and arrange while your soup base is simmering on the stove.
Once your table is set, platters of meats and vegetables ready and hot pot is in the middle of the table (still simmering on medium heat) the fun begins! I suggest eating in courses. Cook your different items a group at a time. If you are cooking in the spicy version of the broth, remember that the longer your food cooks the spicier it will become! I waited a bit long yesterday and ate a piece that was so spicy that I teared up!
This is a fun meal to create together with family and friends. Take the Food Culture Challenge and try eating something new tonight!

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copyright 2011-2017 Loxley Browne

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