Twenty-Five Tips for Cooking Hot Pot

Looking for an alternative to classic Swiss cheese fondue? Try Asian Hot Pot

Ingredients for Chinese hot pot
Alison Miksch/Photodisc/Getty Images

Fondue usually conjures up images of toasted bread cubes dipped in melted Swiss cheese, or lush strawberries bathed in rich melted chocolate. That’s not surprising, since the word fondue comes from the French word “fondre,” meaning to melt. However, today the definition has expanded to include fun dishes where the food is cooked and served in a large communal pot, such as Asian Hot Pot. Here are several tips for making this popular dish:

  • Don’t feel you need to purchase an authentic Asian Hot Pot (also called a firepot) to enjoy this popular dish. Aluminum, stainless steel, and electric fondue pots can all be used for hot pot cooking.

  • Plan on having no more than four diners at an average sized fondue pot, and six for larger Asian hot pots and electric fondue pots. Too many diners sharing one pot leads to spills, crossed dipping forks, and longer cooking times.

  • When preparing Asian fondue, a general rule of thumb is to have bland broth and spicy dips. This allows guests to season the food according to their own tastes.

  • For speedier cooking, cut meat into paper thin slices, no more than 1/4-inch thick.

  • For easier cutting, partially freeze the meat, or ask the butcher to cut it for you.

  • Feel free to marinate the meat or seafood in your favourite marinade before serving it at the table.

  • When serving a combination of meat and vegetables or tofu, cook the meat first to flavour the broth more quickly.

  • Super absorbent fresh mushrooms, transparent noodles and tofu (bean curd) are all good choices to serve along with meat, as they soak up the broth quickly.

  • Not sure about your guests’ tolerance for fiery foods? Play it safe by offering a variety of blander dipping sauces, such as soy sauce, along with the hot mustard and other spicy dips.

  • On the other hand, don’t feel you need to limit yourself to Asian dipping sauces. For example, horseradish goes nicely with Fondue Chinoise.

  • Plan on serving approximately at least four dips, with 1/2 cup of each type of dipping sauce.

  • If making your own special homemade dip, prepare it a few hours ahead of time and refrigerate, covered, until needed. This gives the flavors a chance to blend.

  • Don’t forget the side dishes! Chutneys, salads, noodles, and bread all make great fondue accompaniments.

  • Use a fondue dipping basket for rice and egg noodles, or thin leafy vegetables such as bok choy that are difficult to cook with skewers or dipping forks. Simply lower the basket into the broth and cook the food all at once.

  • Don’t feel you need to stick to one type of main food. Offering a variety of food – from chicken and shrimp to tofu – will accommodate all tastes. Just be sure to have enough broth and a wide selection of dipping sauces on hand.

  • To prevent running out of broth, prepare a large batch on the stove, and then add it to the hot pot or fondue pot as needed.

  • Keep the broth at a low simmer throughout the meal.

  • For easy dipping, keep the fondue pot approximately 2/3 full. (The total amount of broth needed will depend on the size of your fondue pot).

  • If using an electric hot pot, be sure to place it where guests won’t be tripping over the cord.

  • Set the hot pot in the middle of the table where all guests can reach it easily.

  • Arrange all the food in platters and serve at the table.

  • Provide each guest with their own soup bowl for placing the cooked food.

  • Keep a soup ladle on hand for ladling out soup, noodles, and other food that isn’t cooked with fondue forks.

  • For an extra touch, provide guests with wooden chopsticks to eat their food.

  • Serve tea, beer, or saké with hot pot dishes.

Copyright 2004 by Rhonda Parkinson. All Rights Reserved.

Hot Pot Recipes
Classic Mongolian Hot Pot - made with lamb
Fondue Chinoise - Chinese Beef Fondue- an easy fondue dish using flank steak, with lots of suggestions for dips and side dishes
Mongolian Hot Pot with Chicken and Seafood
Shabu Shabu ("Swish Swish")The Japanese version of hot pot gets it name from the swishing sound the meat makes as it is quickly cooked in the hot broth. Precious Ten Mongolian Hot Pot, Chrysanthemum Hot Pot and more - from the Fantes Cookware site