Living, Tips & Techniques

Your guide on how to hot pot

The perfect communal meal.

words by: Natasha Marsh
Feb 1, 2022

For months I’ve been thinking about having a hot pot party. And with temperatures continuously dipping in New York City, I’ve decided now is the time. The only issue: Despite having eaten hot pot on many occasions, and a real love for cooking, I’ve never made my own hot pot before. This would require tools (burner, bowls, chopsticks, plates, and others) and food (meat, seafood, vegetables, broth, dipping sauces).


After extensive research, I learned that the best thing about a hot pot party, is it’s easy to prepare and very affordable. Plus, your friends and family get to share ingredients, cook together, and chat while consuming an amazing meal. Ahead, everything you need to know in mastering the hot pot experience.


What is hot pot?

Originating in China, hot pot is cooking process where a big pot filled with hot broth is placed in the center of a dinning table with various raw ingredients around — thin cut meat, vegetables, seafood, tofu, noodles, etc. And it’s quite interactive too, with guests cooking their ingredients in the broth and consuming with a dipping sauce.


Since each individual cooks what they eat, the prep work only involves cutting the vegetables and displaying the ingredients on your kitchen table — no need to cook anything beforehand.  Not to mention, most meats and vegetables only take a couple minutes to fully cook (depending on preference).


What makes a hot pot different from the next hot pot is the broth and meats used. In colder months, northern China prefers lamb. Cantonese hot pot, however, relies heavily on fresh seafood like oysters, shrimp, and squid. Now that you know the history, let’s go over the equipment you’ll need, your tailored ingredient list, and how to prep for a hot pot party.


What equipment or tools do I need for hot pot?

First things first, you’ll need a pot and a burner to keep things simmering at the table. You can opt for an electric hot pot set for easy clean up or you can purchase a portable burner for a more traditional hot pot party.


We should note if you go the portable burner route, you will also need to buy pots and fuel. When you are ready to buy the pots, make sure you find one with a separator in the middle so you can have two different broths going at a time. A 12-inch pot is great for parties of 2-6 people.


Apart from the burner and pots, you’ll need chopsticks, mini tons, small strainers, spoons, bowls for eating, and small bowls for dipping sauce.


Epic, now what ingredients do I need?

Variety in ingredients is key to having a little bit of everything for all your guests. And luckily, just about any meat, seafood, or veggie is hot pot appropriate. Among the most popular however, are beef and seafood.


For meats and seafood you can do liver, beef, short rib, chicken, lamb, fish balls, shrimp, salmon, clams, and tofu. For vegetables, most people do daikon, carrots, mushrooms, corn, broccoli, bok choy, watercress, lettuce. Other ingredients include: egg, rice noodle and rice cakes.


How do I make the broth?

Deciding what broth to cook your food in can be challenging, but fun. You can choose a simple chicken broth (homemade or store-bought) and flavor it with fresh ginger, garlic, or daikon. Or you can get fancy and make your own type of broth, just the way you like it.


Spicy broth: Made with soybean oil, garlic, chilies, dried shrimp, and brill shrimp, many Asian households incorporate sacha sauce to their broth.

Other spicy broth include: Sichuan, Chongqing, and Mongolian. You can purchase these on Amazon from Hai Di Lao, Little Sheep, or Huangcheng Laoma.

Clear broth: The standard broth in northern China, clear both is made with water, scallions, ginger, shitake mushrooms, and anything else your heart desires. You can find this easily at any Asian market or online.


The sauce

There are several different options of dipping sauce to have. You can keep it simple with sesame oil and a touch of chili flakes. Or you can chop up cilantro, parsley, or scallions for a fresher dip. Loads of people also use egg yoga as a dipping sauce or a ginger-scallion sauce. The combinations here are endless and to your preference.


How do I set the table for hot pot?

To decorate your table, give each ingredient a separate plate. If you don’t have the space, (hi, NYC small apartment) you can always put the same category (all meats, all veggies, all noodles) of ingredients on one big plate together. And to note, you don’t need to put all the ingredients out at once. As you see fit, you can keep filling the table as your guests get through each plate.


And once the party’s over, either wash everything by hand or invest in this mini countertop dish washer to help.


Photo via Sunset