Have you noticed the long queues and multiple social media posts about this sensational meal? This hot meal is known for its sumptuous amount of meat and seafood that is cooked in a hot pot of soup. Malaysians usually refer to this dish as hot pot or steamboats.
Hot pot is known as huo guo (火锅), and this dish originated from Eastern China and has consequently spread to the rest of China and the world. This dish is usually served with a hot cauldron of soup that is kept boiling in the middle of the dining table.
Diners will gather around the hot pot to cook meat, seafood, mushrooms or vegetables, depending on their preferences. There are some other variations where the soup is divided into multiple types and even served in individual pots to accommodate for differences in preference and for convenience purposes.
History and Food
Most historians agree that the origin of hot pot dates back to at least 900 years ago when the Jin Dynasty reigned in China. It has been said that it all began when the Mongolian who mostly lived on horseback and rode out on their horses into war, packing little to no cooking utensils to travel light.
The weary and hungry Mongolian horsemen would whatever they had on hands such as helmets and shields to cook soups over open fires and cooked various meats such as horse meat or beef in the broth.
This cooking method was simple, convenient was able to keep them warm during cold winter seasons. Shortly after, the Great Wall of China was built to keep the Mongolians out, but the method of cooking meats in hot broths spread to the Chinese and subsequently to neighbouring countries such as Japan and Taiwan.
Every region in China has its own variations of the dish such as the Sichuan style which use a lot of spicy peppercorns in their broths. The Manchurians style of hot pot is to use preserved, pickled vegetables while the Cantonese commonly dip their boiled foods into raw egg. Meanwhile, the Japanese have adapted this dish to their own, known as sukiyaki, it is a hot pot that consists mainly of beef.
Hot Pot Etiquette
- Don’t mix the utensils.
The list of hot pot ingredients are endless, and a majority of them are raw meat and seafood. To avoid cross-contamination, it’s important to have designated utensils or tongs for handling raw foods and for eating. Another option is to use both ends of your chopsticks. Flip the chopsticks around and use the thick end for handling raw foods while the thinner end of the chopsticks is for touching cooked meat.
- Do not use plastic.
Avoid using plastic utensils or non-heat safe tools into the hot soup. With temperatures high enough to cook raw meat, it may also cause the chemical in the plastic to melt into the soup.
- Avoid mixing soups.
Many of the hot pot establishments now offer split bowls or hot pots where one side is non-spicy or mild, and the other is spicy. Do not cross dunk the ingredients as the mild broth can get spicy very quickly and vice versa.
- There is a timing for each ingredient.
Meatballs, tofu, mushrooms and other vegetables should be placed in the soup first to add flavour. This is then followed by slices of meat as they take a longer time to cook. Starchy ingredients such as potatoes should be put in at the end as they will cause the broth to be thicker. Seafood should also be put near the end to avoid any fishy taste, and they tend to have a short cooking period compared to other ingredients.
- Do not take out ingredients after adding raw meat.
The addition of raw meat into the soup may contaminate other ingredients in the pot. Hence, it is advisable to wait for the meat to be cooked a decent amount of time before taking out anything from the pot to be eaten.
- Use a strainer.
It can be difficult to separate the food and consumers may need to hunt for each ingredient in the soup. Hence, it is advisable and more hygienic to use a strainer to search for the ‘treasure’ hidden within the broth.
- Take your time.
You may be impatient to cook all of the ingredients at once but let’s not be too hasty. This is because adding too many ingredients at once may lower the temperature of the broth and cause the ingredients to cook slower. It is also advisable to cook each ingredient as you eat it because diners may find some ingredients to be overcooked or lost in the hot soup.
- Avoid refilling the soup too many times.
Some may argue that the best part of the hot pot is not the meat but the soup itself. The mouth-watering taste of the soup, once it has absorbed all of the flavours from the meat, vegetables, mushrooms and seafood, is simply the best. Make sure to only refill the stock once it more than halfway through to avoid diluting the flavours in the beginning.
- Use dipping sauce.
This isn’t a must, but sauces may elevate the taste of cooked meat, and different combinations of flavours will definitely highlight each ingredient that has been cooked. A dipping sauce that is commonly served with spicy Chengdu hotpot is a combination of sesame oil, minced garlic and chopped scallions which helps to reduce the burn of the spicy hot pot ingredients that were cooked in a spicy concoction of dried chilli, Sichuan peppers, garlic and other ingredients that are capable of numbing both of diners’ lips and tongues.
Where to find Hot Pot in Malaysia
Malaysians that are absolutely obsessed with hot pot is sure to have heard about Haidilao Restaurant that is famous for their long queues and spectacular services that are provided to their patrons.
Besides, readers may try Suki-Ya that has nine branches in Klang Valley. It’s an eat-all-you-can establishment that provides diners with an unlimited supply of beef, lamb and chicken slices to be cooked in your preferred choice of broth bases.
Hong Kong Hot Pot in Bangsar is sure to transport you to Hong Kong. With their décor and classical Cantopop music, you are sure to enjoy your sumptuous meal with great ambience. Highly recommended is their signature Sichuan Spicy broth and the milder pork bone base.
Fei Fan Hot Pot at SS15 and Mont Kiara are definitely not one to be missed, as well. This restaurant’s specialty is their homemade udon noodles that are springy and best enjoyed with their signature broths, pork bone broth and Sichuan mala broth.
Readers may be excited to find that there are hot pot restaurants that offer delivery as well. Discover them on foodpanda and enjoy hot pot right in the comfort of your own home!