Hot pot is the “fondue of the east”, but with broth instead of melted cheese or chocolate, and with raw vegetables and meat instead of bread and fruits.
The Chinese fondue has been around for more than 1000 years, long enough for it to evolve into different variations. While the idea remains the same, i.e. a pot of boiling broth and raw ingredients, the flavours of the broth and dipping sauces may vary from province to province.
Let’s take a look a the three most popular hot pot options you will find in Chinese restaurants.
1. Sichuan Ma La Guo
Sichuan Ma La Guo means “Sichuan numbing spicy pot”. It is the spiciest and easily the most popular hot pot for its unique mouth-numbing flavours. The broth is made of a lot of chili oil, chilies or Sichuan peppercorns, the main ingredient that causes the numbing feeling. As expected, the broth does taste as spicy as it looks, with chilies floating on the surface. Any ingredients you choose will taste similar after you cook them in the pot.
2. Old Beijing Lamb Hot Pot
Old Beijing lamb hot pot is extremely popular in Beijing and the areas around it. It is very easy to prepare: a copper pot with plain soup base and fresh sliced lamb are all we need to make a feast. Besides these two ingredients, dipping sauce is also a must. What’s interesting is that the dipping sauce requires more work to prepare than the whole meal itself. To make the dipping sauce, you’d need chili oil, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame sauce, dried pepper oil, coriander, Chinese leek and chives. What a long list!
3. Cantonese Seafood Hot Pot
This is possibly the most “classy” one of all. The ingredients can range from the most common types of meat or seafood to the fanciest or most expensive ones. For example, you can have squid, conch meat, chicken, beef, cuttlefish, sea cucumber and different kinds of vegetables like Chinese mushroom.
There is even the “correct order” of making a Cantonese fondue. First goes the seafood into the broth, then the different varieties of meat and finally the vegetables. Because of the various ingredients, this Cantonese version is considered to have a high nutrition value which is nourishing for the body.
Winter is the best time to have a hot pot even though Chinese people enjoy having it throughout the year. The steaming broth that is full of flavours is just too hard to resist. Try them yourself and find out which one is your favourite.