Meat surrounding a bowl of soup

Hot Pot Craze: A Food Event that Feeds the Stomach and the Soul

Whether you’re having friends come over all of a sudden or are craving warm soup (but not the generic chicken noodle soup) on a cold night, hot pot is the answer to your prayers. This easy soup recipe crosses over nearly every Asian cuisine — Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean and Mongolian — which makes it a diverse soup recipe that makes it worth your while.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of hot pot (otherwise known as shabu shabu pot), think of it like Asia’s version of the Western fondue. It’s a different kind of soup not only because it’s a brothy pot full of seafood; the experience of cooking hot pot (whether at a restaurant or home) is a communal and social one. Everyone gathers around a simmering pot of hot broth and cooks their part of the soup. Also, everyone gets to eat exactly what they want and how much of it they crave, as long as it fits in the pot.

It doesn’t matter if you prefer Chinese, Japanese or Korean hot pot. What matters is you have all the ingredients you want and the people you want to cook the soup with. Plus, you can go to bed with a full stomach.

So, if you’re new to the hot pot world, welcome! There’s much to learn.

What is a Hot Pot?

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The hot pot is an Asian adaptation of the Western stone soup story: you team up with your family and friends to cook an array of ingredients: fresh noodles, lettuce, shrimp, thinly-sliced meat and whatever else you feel belongs in your hot pot. Everyone shares a single pot of seasoned broth, which is simmered by an electric range or an induction burner.

Once the broth is cooked, get your share and eat. Rinse and repeat until you’re full to your heart’s content.

Basic hot pot recipes have three components: the broth, sauces and dipping ingredients.

  • The broth. A typical hot pot restaurant in the US will often offer different types of broths to choose from so indecisive customers can select one or combine different flavors. The most common broth served in restaurants is the cloudy broth made from ginger, chicken, goji berries and other aromatics. You can also choose from a sweet-and-sour broth, savory mushroom broth or a coconut-infused soup.
  • The sauces. Many restaurants will also offer different dipping sauces for your cooked ingredients. Some hot pot places also offer a whole DIY station with all of your favorite ingredients to choose from, such as sesame oil, oyster sauce, minced cilantro and black vinegar.
  • The dipping ingredients. As for the hot pot ingredients themselves, common stars of the show include thin-sliced meats from pork belly, fillet mignon-meat balls, lamb shoulder, rice cakes, noodles, dumplings and fish balls. Most restaurants offer a combination platter that balances the vegetables with the proteins.

Where Can You Eat Hot Pot?

Fortunately, the US is a big fan of the hot pot craze, which is why we have plenty of hot pot restaurants.

Here are some of America’s favorite hot pot restaurants:

  • Nine Ting (Philadelphia). This all-you-can-eat hot pot restaurant features delicious cuts of thinly sliced chicken, pork and beef, along with beef tripe, stomach, pig brain, sausages and more. Balance the protein fest with vegetables like Napa cabbage, watercress, wintermelon and corn.
  • J’s Mini Hot Pot (Georgia). This restaurant is making a positive impression with its numerous hot pot offerings, like snow crab legs, lamb, beef, clam, fish and shrimp and tripe and tendon. Their hot pot mix-ins round out all their dishes. Indulge in oyster mushroom and wood ear!
  • Lemongrass Hot Pot (Florida). This hot pot eatery is famous for its all-you-can-eat offers as well as its hot pot twist. Enjoy a fusion style touch to your soup with tom-yum style, Italian marinara, sweet tomato mala and spicy Taiwanese soup.
  • 99 Favor Taste (New York). If you’re craving hot pot and BBQ, this is the best place to be. Customers enjoy a delicious assortment of lamb, beef and seafood like mussels and shrimp, as well as fresh vegetables.
  • Tatu Shabu (California). You have four options for your hot pot base: spicy miso, traditional kombu seaweed, tonkatsu broth and sukiyaki and dashi. Next, choose the veggies and grains you want, plus the protein. you can enjoy a certified Angus rib eye with a full veggie platter.

How Do You Make Hot Pot at Home?

Equipment

If you’re on a budget or prefer to enjoy your hot pot at home, that’s OK. To make your hot pot at home, the first step is to prepare the equipment: the pot and the heater. If you don’t have one, buy an electric cooker with a pot for an easier cook.

It’s best to cook on a stove that already comes with a pot like this Sonya Shabu Shabu Pot from Amazon.

As for the pot, use a wider pot so can fit all of your favorite ingredients. Usually, you can serve one type of broth, but if you want more options, get a bigger pot or a pot with a divider.

Cook two broths at once with this Mongolian hot pot that comes with a divider. (Photo from Amazon)

You’ll also need longer chopsticks to stir the pot without burning yourself or causing splashes. A hot pot strainer and scoop can hold your fragile ingredients. Use ladles to serve individual broths and small serving bowls for your diners.

Ingredients

When it comes to vegetables, the sky’s the limit for your choices. Think about the vegetables that go with the best Asian flavors. You’ll need the following:

  • Snap peas
  • Greens like morning glory, spinach, watercress, baby bok choy and chopped Napa cabbage
  • Asparagus
  • Onions
  • Green beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Baby corn
  • Small baby potatoes
  • Garnishes like mint, cilantro, basil and sliced limes

Next, should you add rice or noodles? Your preference determines whether you can eat noodles or white rice. Why not both?

If you want to go traditional, however, you can’t go wrong with noodles. Any type of noodle works: fresh egg noodles, rice noodles, ramen noodles or vermicelli noodles.

Finally, choose your hot pot proteins. Thinly sliced pork or beef is pretty much non-negotiable. You can buy the meat pre-sliced from your local market or you can slice it yourself. If you want to slice the beef yourself, go for a high-grade and fatty cut like short ribs or rib eye. Before you serve it, put it in the freezer for up to 30 minutes so that the meat will become easier to slice.

You can also go with thinly sliced lamb or chicken! Other good additions to your hot pot include:

  • Fried tofu gives your hot pot a bit of a crunch. If you’re not a big fan of fried tofu, use firm tofu so it holds up to cooking with the other ingredients.
  • Quail eggs are traditional additions to hot pot but you can also use ramen eggs.
  • Fish, crab or seafood. Shrimp is also a must-have to any hot pot bowl. If you want to use lobster or crab, pre-cut the shells so you can easily extract the meat. Clams, mussels and other crustaceans are also popular.

Hot Pot Recipes

Once you have all the equipment and the ingredients, make your hot pot! If you’re looking for a different take on the traditional hot pot, here are some recipes you can try:

  • Thai curry hot pot broth. The Thai coconut curry broth only needs six ingredients. Start by sautéing some ginger and garlic in a bit of oil. Add your favorite vegetable stock and lots of coconut milk. To enhance the flavor, add in some Thai red curry paste. Use six tablespoons of the paste to add a kick to your soup. Once your broth is ready, serve in the middle of the table and have it barely simmering.
  • Asian red curry hot pot broth. If you’re going with two broths, serve a mild one and a spicy one. Or go for a broth that works with seafood/veggies or a broth with beef. Since the broth will become more flavorful as it becomes more infused with the ingredients simmering in the broth, it’s best to start with a simple and balanced broth.

Apart from a regular ice cream date, a good hot pot meal is one of the best ways to enjoy comforting food with good friends. Have fun with your loved ones by having a hot pot party!

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