When the weather outside drops below 0, I instantly begin to crave hotpot. During the winter, my family would often hotpot at home every weekend. I loved prepping all of my favourite ingredients with my mom and then spending a night gathered around the steaming pot. Hotpot is generally a family meal, where the more the merrier, so I would often request it when I went to my parents’ for dinner. With just the two of us, The Hubby and I usually go out for hot pot, but this winter, we bought the equipment so we could enjoy the style of cooking at home. Although we always end up with a ton of leftovers, the convenience of having our own stove has been a delicious treat. With only two people though, we do end up making sacrifices on the variety of ingredients, trying to choose groceries that can be used again later in the week. Below I’ve listed out my hotpot must-haves (italics), and optional ingredients I enjoy when we have more people.
Generally, I hotpot at home using a gas camping stove. These stoves are often used in Asian restaurants that offer ‘tabletop cooking’. As for the pot, most Chinese grocery stores sell large “steaming pots” that fit perfectly on a camping stove. These pots are shallow and wide, lots of boiling surface area and heat up quickly. Some pots include a partition separating the pot in two, allowing for different soup flavours and perfect if there are ingredients that are not enjoyed by the entire table. With just The Hubby and I, we chose to just go with a regular pot. Ladles are also a must for scooping out ingredients when they’re ready. Typically, small individual ladles are used. For us, we just use a single large round ladle.
We usually buy a pre-packaged soup base from the grocery store. Our favourite is the spicy Little Fat Lamb one. When we use a pot with two sections, I will usually have one side spicy and one not. Chicken and pork bone broths can also be used as a base, even just plain water. I would recommend adding in some aromatics such as green onion, daikon (to help with gaminess of lamb) and cilantro if everyone enjoys it.
As ingredients are cooked, the soup takes on more flavours and grows in richness and taste. Thus, I like to start with cooking lamb or beef first, then moving to milder seafood (shrimp, fish balls), vegetables once the soup is rich and oily, before ending with carbs.
|Camping Stove x 1
|Pot x 1
|Ladles x 1
|Soup Base x 1
Hotpot is pretty much just boiled food. Depending on the soup base used, the cooked ingredients may not be the most seasoned. Thus, I think one of the most important aspects of a successful hotpot meal, is the dipping sauce. When eating out, I love restaurants that provide a wide variety of ingredients for me to customize my own sauce. When I hotpot at home, I already have all of these asian sauces handy. If you don’t, many Chinese grocery stores do sell pre-made dipping sauces.
|Light soy sauce
|Lao Gan Man Hot Sauce
|Prickly Pepper Oil
With just two people, we usually just pick up a small package of fish or beef balls and one tray of sliced lamb. In general, I portion out 1 tray of meat per person.
When it comes to vegetables, almost anything goes! The key for leafy greens is to fish them out quickly. Wintermelon takes longer to cook and is perfect once the flesh turns transparent, it will melt into the soup if left for too long.
In between plates of plate and fresh vegetables, I like to through in noodles and rice cakes that cook at the bottom of the pot until they’re soft and full of flavour.