I have loved hotpot from the first time I ever tried it in Beijing years ago, and since I discovered how easy it was to make at home I’ve been having hotpot at home whenever I wanted to (which is a lot), whether it is together with friends and family, or by myself.
This Hotpot for Dummies article is meant for those who start out at making their own hotpot at home. I’ve had many friends asking me how to do it, and they don’t know where to start or how to do it. But it can actually be very simple, and really doesn’t need to take more than 15 minutes once the shopping is done.
There’s a lot of this process that you could do with home-made broths and sauces, for which we’ll share recipes on this website later on, but let’s start out the easy way first with some ready-made broths and easy sauces.
What do you need before making hotpot at home? We’ve listed all steps thoroughly in the articles below and will then break it down for you step by step.
#1 Go Shopping!
The first step is to have all the right equipment and ingredients at home to start your own hotpot party.
Let’s start with the hotpot equipment. You might already have a (magnetic) pan and induction cooktop at home that you could use for hotpot. Otherwise, an electric multicooker is also suitable for preparing hotpot. Read about the various (electric) hotpot recommendations here. As listed in our article there, you can buy an electric cooker online, but your local Asian supermarket surely will also have various options.
Outside of China, Asian supermarkets usually have a selection of broths & condiments, Amazon has some, too (check images below), and most countries have their own online Asian sites selling these (for Dutch people, the Amazing Oriental online store is great!).
Some of the must-have basics at home that are perfect to make your own sauces are:
- Dark soy sauce
- Sesame oil
- BBQ sauce and/or Worcester sauce
- Chili powder and/or chili oil
- Crushed chili
- Lemon juice (this is not Chinese tradition, but just me – lemon juice makes any sauce tastier)
Then what about the ingredients to put in your hotpot? This completely depends on your own taste, whether you like seafood, if you’re vegetarian or actually prefer to eat meat, and what kind of vegetables you like.
Of course, it also depends on what is available in your neighborhood. If you have access to a Chinese or Asian Supermarket, it will be easy to get specific ingredients, but also without an Asian supermarket around, you will have plenty of options of ingredients to put in your hotpot.
- Mushrooms: if available, get some enokitake mushrooms, but anything will do.
- Tomatoes: tomatoes add to the taste of the broth.
- Tofu: so many options, but just basic fresh tofu in thin slices are perfect.
- Mutton: Asian supermarkets will have thinly sliced mutton, otherwise, you could opt to cut it in small slices yourself.
- Chicken or veal: depending on your taste, cut them in small pieces. Frozen meatballs are also an option.
- Seafood: if you don’t have access to fresh seafood (squid, sliced fish, scallops), seafood (surimi) sticks are also tasty in hotpot, as are fishballs or shrimp paste balls.
- Lettuce, Chinese cabbage, or fresh spinach
- Noodles: fresh, dried, wheat, rice, egg, or glass noodles – anything’s possible.
Also something to consider is the side snacks for your private hotpot party. If you or your friends are not used to eating spicy hotpot, it could help to have some peanuts on the table and I like to have kimchi or sauerkraut as a side dish to balance the spiciness.
#2 Time to Prepare the Hotpot
Ok, so you got all your ingredients – what’s next? For this hotpot, I’ve selected the Liuyishou Hot pot Soup Base Traditional (available from Amazon UK), but any other hot pot base will do.
Usually, most of these hotpot bases are good for a big hotpot of some 1,5 liter, but depending on your own taste, you could decide to first only use a part of the base and add more later.
Add the base to the pot and then add water, and then it’s time to slowly make it boil.
I also like to add some fresh ingredients to the broth once it’s boiling, such as fresh ginger and garlic.
#3 Get the Sauces Ready
While the hotpot is simmering, it’s time to prepare your sauces. There are so many ready-made sauces available as thoroughly described here, but they might still be a bit salty or strong.
I usually like to have two different sauces; a sesame one and chili oil one. Even with the ready-made sauces, I still like to add some water, sesame oil, soy sauce, or lemon juice to them to make them less strong. Stir them well, and add some fresh garlic, coriander, or anything you like.
For more information about preparing the sauces, please check our previous article here.
#4 Ready, Set, Go!
You have your hotpot simmering, you have a dipping sauce, perhaps some snacks – now make sure you have your various ingredients sliced or cut on different plates or in bowls on the table.
Having separate plates is important. You wouldn’t want your fresh cabbage together with raw chicken, for example – the chicken needs more time to boil, the cabbage only needs some seconds in the hotpot.
Also make sure you have an extra set of chopsticks for fresh meat or seafood; don’t use the same chopsticks for those foods as you do for eating.
As for what to put into the hotpot first, that is somewhat controversial; some argue to always put in the meats first, while others argue the vegetables always go first.
Whatever you do, don’t put everything in at the same time. Hotpot dinners are meant to go slow, and you don’t want leafy greens to stay in the pot too long. Just boil and eat as you go, add more ingredients when you want, and add extra water to the hotpot when needed.
And then, of course, the most important thing of all: just enjoy!
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