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The Chinese Hot Pot meal is perfect for social gatherings. Choice of ingredients and broth are key to a delicious hot pot.
The Chinese Hot Pot is a social kind of meal, often prepared for family gatherings. Many Chinese families in Malaysia opt to have this meal for their Chinese New Year reunion feast because it is a good and fun way for families to renew ties and bond during the festivities. Everyone at the table enjoys cooking and eating their food leisurely over stories and news on current life events. It is an experience not to be missed.
The Cooking Pot – Then and Now
In Malaysia, the Chinese Hot Pot is also known as the “steamboat”. I am not exactly sure where that name came from but there sure is a lot of steam coming out of the pot where the food is being cooked in boiling broth at the table. Perhaps it is due in part to the traditional vessel used which has a funnel in the center to allow the smoke from the burning charcoal at the base to emit. It does kind of remind one of a ship or boat’s funnel.
Today, that traditional steamboat vessel using charcoal as a heat source is no longer popular. Most people opt for the cleaner and more convenient Electric Steamboat Pot (affiliate link).
The success of a Chinese Hot Pot is in the choice of dipping ingredients and broth. All ingredients may be purchased or made ahead of time. The spread is dependent only on your budget.
The Chinese Hot Pot Broth
As for the broth, many variations exist. It can be mild, spicy, or herbal. The broth in this recipe is one I remember from childhood prepared by my Grand Aunt during a large family gathering. I added some goji berries to give it little specks of color. Except for the broth, no measurements of the other ingredients are given because you can prepare as much or as little as desired.
Meatballs are good choices for a hot pot. This time, I made fresh meatballs using extra lean minced beef. You can find the recipe here. Pork or chicken may be used in place of beef.
It is not always necessary to make everything from scratch. For convenience, you can buy prepackaged frozen meatballs at most Asian grocery stores. There is a wide selection there to choose from – fish, squid, shrimp, pork, and beef. Any one or a combination thereof will work. I chose shrimp paste balls.
Tofu and Noodles
It is always good to have some tofu in a hot pot to soak up the delicious flavor. I prefer deep fried tofu or firm white tofu which will not break up too easily in the broth.
When it comes to noodles, the possibilities are endless. You can use fresh, dried, wheat, rice, egg, or glass noodles. For this hot pot, I used reconstituted dried, broad, glass noodles. Soak for 30 minutes to soften.
For vegetables, choose green leafy ones like baby bok choy, gai lan (Chinese brocoli), chai sim (choy sum/yu chai/oilseed rape), and tang ho (garland chrysanthemum) to name a few. Shown here are baby bok choy. Since they are just about the right size, simply cut off the ends and give them a good wash.
Appliance Used for Serving Chinese Hot Pot
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Chinese Hot Pot
- 2 chicken carcasses
- 10 cups water (2.4 liters)
- 5 leaves Napa cabbage (sliced)
- 1 tbsp goji berries (rinse and soak for 10 minutes, then drained)
- Salt and pepper
Choice or Combination of
- Thinly sliced beef / pork / chicken
- Fish / shrimps / squid / scallops
- Meatballs / fish sticks / fish cakes
- Dumplings / wontons
- Tofu / tofu skin / mushrooms / eggs
- Rice noodles / glass noodles / egg noodles
- Napa cabbage / baby bok choy / choy sum / gai lan / garland chrysanthemum
- Bring water in a large pot to a boil. Add chicken carcasses, salt, and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1½ hours. Skim off scum appearing on the surface.
- Remove chicken carcasses with a slotted spoon. Add Napa cabbage and goji berries. Simmer for another 10 minutes until Napa cabbage is very soft. Turn off heat and transfer broth to an electric fondue pot or deep skillet until about half full. Do not over fill as food will be added to the broth at the table.
- Set a bowl, small wire strainer, and dipping sauces for each place setting. Arrange all other ingredients into different bowls around the electric pot at the table.
- Bring broth to a boil. Add small portions of desired ingredients into broth and simmer till cook.
- Dish into individual serving bowls with slotted spoon or small wire strainer. Dip cooked food into sauces and enjoy.
- When cooked food have been distributed, repeat until everyone has had their fill. Top up with more broth when necessary.
Low Key or Lavish Chinese Hot Pot
This hot pot was a relatively simple and low key one with just a few dipping ingredients (mostly prepackaged) for a weekend family meal. The soup did take 1½ hours to boil on the stove but I purposely kept the prep time to a minimum. You can certainly make it more lavish by adding fresh thinly sliced meats, seafood, dumplings, wontons, and the likes.
Dipping Ingredients Suggestions
If you prefer to make your own dipping ingredients, here are some suggestions. Please click on the picture to get to the recipe.