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I love going to hotpot at the restaurant.
How can I do it at home? What sort of equipment do I need?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You will need the following:

  1. A pot that's about 12" in diameter and 4 inches deep
  2. Put the broth in the pot, you can buy broth packages usually at Chinese/Asian supermarket. You just need to mix it with water and boil.
  3. Food you want to cook in the pot. Sliced beef is my favourite, but mussels, beef balls, fish balls, shrimps, veggies, etc.
  4. You will need chopsticks, hot pot scoop that looks like the following, so you can scoop the cooked food to your own plate: Hot Pot Scoop
  5. To add flavour, usually you dip the cooked food in soya sauce, but a mixture of raw egg, soya sauce and satay sauce is used as the deep. You can even add chopped chili, green onions and chili oil to it.

Just make the broth. Cook the food you like as you eat. That's it!

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Thanks! that was exactly the answer i was looking for –  Chris Ching Oct 27 '11 at 22:19
    
It's important to add the heat source which you can use those single electric stove, induction or not. Induction does heat really fast. You can do it on the stove but it's pretty inconvenient. The hotpot sauce can be bought in stores which is quite convenient. –  Huangism Dec 21 at 23:56

Pots

There are two options for Chinese hot pot. Either one large pot that everyone dips into or several small pots, one each that you cook your own food in. Both styles are popular in China. It is also common to see the large pot with a divide in the middle allowing one side to have more chilli and spice than the other.

鸳鸯火锅 Spicy and Plain Hotpot - Ba Yu Ren Jia Chongqing Hotpot Do Lar hotpot in Shanghai

Left: Large pot with divide. Right: Individual pots on burners.

Heat source

Missing from the other answers, you need some way to heat the pot and keep it simmering. In China, people have individual electric hobs with temperature controls specially designed for the job. You can find them online http://www.alibaba.com/showroom/induction-stove.html

For the individual pots, a paraffin wax burner is used blow the pot. Similar to the heater used in a buffet restaurant to keep food warm.

Cheating

Really any pot and a little gas stove would do just fine:

Hotpot

In pot spices

This can vary considerably depending on what region of China you are in and what you like. You could just use plain water or a light broth of chicken or fish. I've seen some that resemble cream of tomato soup. Commonly you will see wolf berries, chilli, ginger, garlic, black, white and red pepper corns, bay leaves and Chinese dates. You really could use anything you like.

Dips

Again this varies. Usually each person has a small bowl into which they mix their own dip. This may contain rice vinegar, soy sauce, peanut or sesame paste, chilli paste in oil, crushed garlic, pickled garlic, picked chilli and some other pastes of things I have yet to identify. You might be able to buy ready mixed spices for dips in you're local Chinese supermarket or online shops.

Food for cooking

Typical food for cooking includes: Thin cut beef or lamb (occasionally pork), fish of any type, shrimp, oysters and such seafood, thin sliced potato or sweet potato (yam), egg noodles, tofu (either fresh or frozen or the skin shredded), and vegetables such as cabbage, bok choy, lettuce, spinach or whatever greens you have to hand.

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Hot plates don't have to use induction - normal electric is probably cheaper. Also, be really careful - propane camping stoves are not safe for indoor use. –  Jefromi Oct 28 '11 at 15:13
    
You don't need to use induction, but it is more controllable. It's certainly the choice of every restaurant and home hotpot I've ever had. As for propane camping stoves - In the USA or UK they probably do have a warning sticker on them. In China they are common place. I have seen stoves, very similar to the one photographed, in use in a five star hotel's kitchen. I've also seen similar looking things on sale for home use. –  Rincewind42 Oct 28 '11 at 16:19
    
My understanding is that it's possible to make a propane stove safe for indoor use, but that camping stoves don't bother, hence the strong warnings in the US. (I don't know if the ones in China are safer, or simply risking carbon monoxide poisoning.) –  Jefromi Oct 28 '11 at 16:50
    
I've dropped the word "camping" from my answer, though it would be quite safe to use a camping stove in your garden and have hotpot. –  Rincewind42 Oct 28 '11 at 17:21
    
You can use those gas cans with the burner kit or use the electric plate. It's so common in chinese people's home, not unsafe at all. –  Huangism Dec 21 at 23:54

To add to your options, because part of the fun is the interactive/participation, cook something you like that you may not see on the menu at the sit-in place. Our house likes slices of that pinkish potato taro.

  • We have a propane fired table top stove much like what you can find for camping equipment. The pot which is more wide than deep is resting on this mini stove. It goes without saying that the surface must be safe and stable. In the past, we used a electric non-stick breakfast griddle that was shaped like a elongated casserole dish. In both cases, a matching lid was present. The other characteristic is a wide mouth opening because you expect many guests to scoop and dip constantly so the pot needs to be accessible from the farthest end of your table.
  • You can make a simplified broth by boiling water in a smaller pot on the kitchen stove. Then transfer into (pour slowly and very carefully) the hot pot set-up, start with white napa cabbage or bok choy, (shitake) mushrooms, and green onions. Cover with a lid and watch as you bring it to a boil. As soon as the greens soften, you can lower the temp down and begin cooking the morsels of food. The smaller water pot on the kitchen stove is also helpful to "top off" the hot pot as people scoop out broth as soup or the liquid boils and evaporates.
  • Leave the sauce ingredients out for individual tastes. Each individual can personalize their dipping sauce. For example, soy sauce, vinegar, chili paste, raw egg, green onions (chopped), sesame oil, bbq sauce (http://www.koamart.com/shop/13-2171-canned_food-chinese_bbq_sauce__26oz.asp) are spread out and some will skip the egg or the chili.
  • To finish the meal, you can introduce bean thread noodles to cook with a fresh sprinkle of greens like spinach. This helps if your guests have big appetites as the bite size morsels may seem like snacks. It also takes advantage of the rich broth that results from the many items cooking and blending.
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Be careful - actual propane camping stoves are definitely not safe for use indoors. –  Jefromi Oct 28 '11 at 15:11
    
I have to agree. Practice safety first. I should clarify that I do not mean a set-up using a propane tank! The mini stove is fueled by a small spray can like container. –  corin Oct 28 '11 at 19:23

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