A visit to China is not complete if you don’t try Chinese hotpot, as is one of the most popular meals in China. This is the Chinese version of fondue, where instead of cooking oil, ingredients are placed into a pot full of simmering flavoured water-based broth. Hotpot consists of a simmering metal pot with broth at the center of a table, and all raw ingredients placed beside the metal pot, so you can add and cook whatever they like in the broth.
- Hotpot is a Social meal.
My work colleagues and friends took me out for my very first official Hotpot experience since I moved to Shanghai. You can’t go to a Chinese Hotpot by yourself, and if you do some places actually seat a huge stuffed bear opposite you so that you don’t feel so alone. That’s because hotpot is traditionally eaten with friends and families, as together you enjoy digging at many ingredients while you engage in cheerful conversation. For this reason, hot pot restaurants have one of the liveliest atmospheres to enjoy good Chinese food! Additionally, the unique experience of eating together with your colleagues and the overwhelming aroma of palatable food on the table is just a natural ice breaker! All of these are reasons why hotpot dining is a real experience.
2. There is a variety of Hotpot Flavours.
There are over 30 variations of hotpot in all over of China. Perhaps the most popular hotpot is the Sichuan Hotpot. It is known for its spicy flavour from 20 bits of spices, including chilli and the Sichuan pepper with beef oil or vegetable oil. But don’t worry you can also choose a non-spicy option as there is a variety of broths from wild mushroom soup-based, to tomato soup-based broths. We had spice and non-spicy at the table as the metal pot in the middle of the table was split to hold two different broths.
3. Hotpot is definitely not Monotonous
Chinese Hot Pot is simply the opposite of monotony and boring. From the main ingredients like meats, poultry, vegetables, seafood, mushrooms, noodles, sausages, fish balls to the sauce and spices, hot pot is a find that never gets boring. There were various ingredients added to our Chinese Hotpot by my colleagues that I stayed away from, these included pig’s blood, duck intestine, and Chinese blood sausages. I opted for the leaf vegetables, mushrooms, vermicelli, sliced potatoes, bean products, egg dumplings, tofu, and seafood. Raw ingredients are pre-sliced into thin sections that will cook quickly and consistently in the simmering broth. Most raw foods can be cooked in a hot pot, although it’s important to distinguish different kinds of raw materials to ensure the delicious taste. Some ingredients should be cooked for only a few seconds, such as duck intestines, goose intestines, and beef tripe. Some ingredients need to be cooked for several minutes, such as meat balls, mushrooms, pork brain, and duck blood. So, you have to immerse and remove the different ingredients from the soup accordingly which can be a bit of a challenge and I did end up with soggy mushrooms once. Whether you’re a vegetarian or a seafood lover, Chinese Hot Pot is a match for every gourmet!
4. It’s a great find for Adventure Foodies
There is more to eating Chinese Hot Pot than the unique and traditional experience. If you’re the kind of person who loves to try on unique and unconventional activities, then Chinese Hotpot is for you! Not only does it offer you new ways to enjoy a meal with friends, it also gives you a chance to experiment on your soup and sauce! There is usually a sauce station in a hotpot restaurant which provides different kinds of sauces. PI got to create my own dipping sauce based on my choices and tastes. So, the first combination was peanut sauce based with different sesame seeds and other spices. I got to pick ingredients such as green onions, sesame oil, cilantro, peanut oil, garlic, crushed chilli peppers, chilli oil, soy sauce, pepper sauce, ginger, and vinegar. As you eat the cooked ingredients you dip it in the different sauces that you have made, adding extra flavour to the food.
5. It’s a Budget Friendly Dining option
Because Hotpot is a local cuisine and available in many places all over the city it is very affordable. Another reason is that as eating hotpot is a communal activity you share the costs. The more you are in a group, the less you pay!
Like every other meal, Chinese Hot Pot is best when shared with friends.