How To Hotpot

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Hotpot is a great meal to have any time of the year. In the winter, you get warming soupy comfort. In the summer, you can have a long & leisurely meal with minimal additional heat added to your surroundings.

I bought this Rosewill induction burner last year for $80.00, and it came with the pot. It’s okay, but it needs to be plugged directly into an outlet, and has a tendency to make a high pitched sound every now and then when heating up. The heating unit tends to cycle to keep the heat up instead of keeping the heat constant, but for an $80 induction burner, it does a pretty good job. The pot is pretty cheap and thin though, so I will probably have to replace it in the near future. The benefit to the thinness, however, is that it heats up lightning fast.

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When you eat anything spicy, you want to look for Tao Huabi’s face on the product. It’s Lao Gan Ma brand chili sauces, and everything this lady makes is AMAZING. A great balance between heat and flavor. It’s like the Chinese version of Cholula.

Tao Huabi’s story is actually quite inspiring. I wouldn’t do it justice: you can read it on Women of China for a small look into her company and life.

Albany John and I jokingly call it “Race car sauce” at home, because, ashamedly… when I first looked at her picture, I thought it was a famous race car driver in China. But then I looked up more information on this delicious product and found out how wrong I was. Her picture reminds me of pictures of my NaiNai – that time period that wanted stoic photos. And then you read about what a wonderful person she is.

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Emptied sauce packet into bowl. So many chilis! With a flavor packet like this for hot pot, you can use just water as your base. If you go for a non-spicy hot pot, you can use chicken broth to add a little extra flavor. I had a bit of extra broth left, so I put in about a cup of broth, and lots more water.

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Condiments are essential for hot pot. I don’t really ever remember using condiments as a kid, but then again, hot pot was for the parents and the kiddos got pizza when I was growing up. Partially because we were ABCs, and also partially because hot pot isn’t exactly the safest thing for energetic kids under 10 to do when the adults want to socialize. I still remember begging off shrimp from my parents when they did hotpot, though.

You may notice 2 more Lao Gan Ma hot sauces here. So good. Albany John polished off about half a bottle in 2 sittings of the “Spicy Chili Crisp” hot sauce. Which are just chili flakes in oil. I like the sting of her hot sauces, but I also like the gentle heat of chili oil. Chili oil isn’t all that hot, but it’s very flavorful. It also seems like Albany John can’t eat a meal without Sriracha, so that’s there too, in addition to some soy sauce, sesame seeds, and fish sauce. I don’t think either of us touched the fish sauce.

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Thin sliced beef. We usually buy this from the Chinese markets, so I worry about its sourcing and antibiotics/hormones in ot. I don’t really know any where else to buy beef so finely sliced, although it’s worth asking Roma, I suppose.

When you eat these, pick them up with your chopsticks and lightly dunk into the broth. You don’t want to cook it forever!

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Shiitakes! My favorite! They are so good. This is enough for several people.

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Tofu! Albany John and I both love tofu in hot pot. I’m usually ambivalent about tofu (the husbear loves it), but in hot pot it acts as a sponge for all of the flavors of the broth and becomes this delicious pillow of flavor. You can also toss in a bunch and forget about them – there’s really no overcooking them. They just keep absorbing more flavor.

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Scallions. For cooking, or tossing on raw.

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Squid, glorious squid! Hotpot needs some kind of seafood with it. I usually don’t like fish fillets because their delicate flavor often gets lost in hotpot. You want a seafood that can stand up to hotpot flavors. Squid is a good one, as are shrimp, clams, mussels, and bay scallops.

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Fresh rice noodles! Albany John got these at the counter at the Asian Supermarket (Ga Ga Lok (Cantonese)/ Jia Jia Liu (Mandarin)) on Central Ave. They also have refrigerated ones, but these were by the registers. They lasted a few days in the fridge and had a great chew to them. They’d also be great in other hearty soups.

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Fish balls! These are also great to add to your hotpot and forget about – they will just suck up all of the flavors of your hotpot. In a very good way.

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And last but not least – the greens! You have to have lots of veggies! I’d steer clear of bean sprouts because they are hard to pick out of a hotpot, but napa cabbage, bok choy, and chrysanthemum greens are great for hot pot. Chrysanthemum greens are nicely bitter and cook up very quickly. You’ll want to slice up bok choy & napa cabbage and let them cook for a few minutes.

And the most important rule of hot pot is… there are no real rules! Just cook up whatever you want that sounds tasty! It’s all personal preference.

Also, don’t forget to invite me.

2 comments
  1. Liz said:

    I love hotpot! I’ve never done it at home, but in Boston we have two Shabu-Zen locations (one in Chinatown, one in Allston). It’s amazing, and addicting. I usually order the kim chee broth.

    Thanks for the sauce/seasoning recommendations. I think that’s where I’d get stuck if I tried it at home.

  2. jb said:

    I miss hotpot. Used to have them with my sisters when I was in Taiwan. I haven’t tried it here, plus, not really comfortable with sharing one with friends or acquaintances. Will look for that chili sauce. I put hot sauce in almost everything I eat (plus the real hot pepper in everything I cook) and have only 2 types that I regularly use, the Chiu Chow Chili oil and Chili garlic sauce both from Lee Kum Lee. I’ve tried other brands but always end up not using the whole bottle.

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