Hinabe, as it is called in Japanese, is where you have a big pot of soup and you cook meats, vegetables, and noodles in it. Typically you’ll also have a dipping sauce. I’m a HUGE fan of hot pot (as I have always called it and will continue to call it throughout this post), and I was super excited to see it on Yuri on Ice! Even if the adorable Guang-hong doesn’t like it much, haha.
I was so excited for it and so into the planning for this post that I procrastinated the kibidango post hahahaha.
I usually go out to a restaurant for hot pot, especially with the recent explosion of big-name Mainland restaurants opening up here, but every once in a while, my family will pull out the portable burner and we’ll do it ourselves. The restaurants have a ton of broth options and are typically all-you-can-eat affairs with a plethora of cookables to choose from. When you do it at home, though, you have to be a bit choosier with what you buy, unless you have a bunch of people, you’re really hungry, or money is not a concern when you’re buying the food.
My family usually does hot pot in a really Cantonese way – water or a light broth for the soup base, heavy on the seafood, and with a raw egg mixed into the sauce – since they’re from Hong Kong. I actually only recently learned that the raw egg in the sauce is pretty unusual and is a regional variation. The super popular hot pot style right now involves a super mala broth which goes better with meats like beef and lamb. There are even more hot pot broths out there, too, so it’s an infinitely variable and customizable dining experience.
The hot pot pictured in the commercial eyecatch looks to be a red mala broth with a pork bone broth, which is a really classic combination and one that I order a ton when I’m out! It’s not too difficult to make two different broths for hot pot, since it’d only be a matter of turning one spicy after the fact.
I should also probably explain “mala.” “Ma” refers to the numbing feeling you get when you eat Szechuan peppercorns. They’re not a true peppercorn but they kinda look like them! And “la” is “spicy.” I’m not an expert on this because I only know Cantonese, but this is what the internet has told me. You can correct me if I’m wrong!
I also want to note that, when I first wanted to match the eyecatches near perfectly in composition (which I promptly abandoned for reasons mentioned in the ikasashi post), I actually looked for where to buy the pot. In the end, I decided not to (but may in the future since it’s still pretty cool looking!) but if you’re interested as well, there are tons of options on Taobao. This seller is the one I was going to go with. Conveniently enough, a hot pot restaurant opened up next door to me and is using very similar pots!
I was planning on making the spicy soup from scratch but ended up not doing so. I probably will do so in the future, but since the stock was already going to take a while, I thought it’d be more prudent to just buy a spicy hot pot broth packet for now, especially since I was just feeding myself and my boyfriend! If you’re interested in making your own spicy soup for hot pot, I highly suggest you look at Yi Reservation or Lady and Pups since they’ll be what I reference when I do it myself.
Otherwise, the stock is really just a traditional Chinese style pork-and-chicken stock.
Things that one usually cooks in hot pot are thinly sliced meats (conveniently available pre-sliced from my local Chinese grocery store!), greens, mushrooms, dumplings such as wontons, tofu, and noodles. I could go into huge detail about what sorts of meats, or what specific greens, but it’s really whatever you like to eat in the end! My go-to items, though, are pork, fish slices, watercress, wintermelon, and udon.
There’s also the matter of the dipping sauce! Like I mentioned earlier, raw egg is a Cantonese variation, but one that I love. It adds body and silkiness to the sauce, but it definitely isn’t for everyone. I know some people can be squeamish about raw eggs, and if you’re in an at-risk health group that is typically warned away from raw eggs, you probably shouldn’t do the thing. But I personally think it’s delicious, and I justify it by saying that the egg is quickly cooked by the hot meats as it comes out of the pot and is dipped in (it probably isn’t.)
Other things you can use in the sauce include: sesame paste, sesame oil, peanut paste (unsweetened!), oyster sauce, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, Maggi sauce, sha cha sauce… Sliced scallions, minced garlic, and minced ginger are also typically on hand, as well as chili powder. It’s a bunch of whatever you think would be good mixed together with the things you’re cooking!
I’m actually planning a vegetarian broth version for this weekend for a friend, so if anyone’s interested in that, hit me up! Vegetarian food in Chinese cuisine isn’t difficult to find, per se, because there is a tradition of Buddhism and vegetarian days and etc., but it’s separate styles and not necessarily adaptations of popular dishes. You also can’t really find it unless you go to special vegetarian restaurants! There’s a pretty fantastic vegetarian restaurant near me that does dim sum. Anyway, the summary is that I’m cobbling together some vegetarian broth for hot pot purposes and it’s nothing fancy and people have prob done it before, but if you’re not a person who cobbles things together for dinner, let me know haha.
Stock for Hot Pot
makes one stock pot’s worth of stock, or enough stock for a 30cm pot for hot pot purposes
- 1 stewing chicken (if you can’t find one (don’t use a regular tender chicken – that’s a waste of good meat!), you can use chicken bones, chicken wings, etc.)
- 4 lbs pork bones
- 2 pig trotters
- 4 slices of ginger
- 1 scallion
- 1 onion
- 4 slices of ginger
- Bring a stock pot full of water to a rolling boil (you may want to check that it fits all your meat bones and to leave space for them).
- Dump in all the meat as well as the first 4 slices of ginger and the scallion, and bring back to a rolling boil, then boil for 5 minutes.
- Pour out all the water and run the meat under cold water, scrubbing off all gunk. Don’t burn yourself on the hot meat. Wipe out the pot. This pre-boil step ensures you have a clear stock.
- Once the meat is all cleaned, put it back into the pot with the onion and other 4 slices of ginger. Fill with water until it covers all the meat and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for hours. Just let it sit on your stove for forever. I suggest at least like 4 hours. I lost track of time and accidentally let mine go overnight. The pig trotters were unrecognizable because it dissolved into delicious collagen-y stock-y goodness.
- Strain stock into a vessel that’s large enough to hold all your stock – I have a second stock pot but you could also use a large mixing bowl (which I have done when I only had one!). Press down on the solids to really extract all the fatty goodness.
- Now you have a rich delicious stock! You can use it now, but I suggest letting it cool in the fridge so you can peel off the thick fat cap that will solidify on top (don’t throw it out!! Use it in place of oil when cooking! It’s delicious!) and to let the really tiny solids fall to the bottom.
- When using it for hot pot, I really suggest watering the stock down so the richness doesn’t overpower the items you’re cooking in it. And also if you’re making a spicy broth, you want the other flavours in the broth to come through, too!
- Once you’re done with hot pot, you can save the broth if you want. I sometimes do and use it for noodles.