Celebration Hot Pot
Melissa King, a San Francisco chef and consultant and former Top Chef finalist, grew up eating hot pot with her Chinese-American family in Los Angeles. Eaten for just about every holiday and birthday, hot pot is as much an experience as it is a dish
Although it’s not hard to make, hot pot does involve a lot of shopping and prep. To make room for all the food, clear out your fridge before you shop—or stow some ingredients in a cooler. Better yet, divvy up the shopping and prep work with your guests. That way, everyone gathers a couple of hours before dinner to rinse, trim, and plate the ingredients (cover prepped vegetables with damp paper towels, chilling only the proteins).
When it comes to choosing your ingredients, just mix and match with what appeals to you from this list. For a dinner party serving 8 to 10, aim for about 1/3 lb. protein per person and about 1 lb. vegetables, including as much variety as possible. While you can find everything at an Asian market, you can also make a very satisfying hot pot with standard grocery-store items. Things you can find only at Asian markets are asterisked, and you can find more info about them in our Asian Market Shopping Guide.
Make your selections first, then look at “How to Prep” (below) if you need tips.
PROTEINS (CHOOSE 2 OR MORE)
Paperthin presliced rib eye*and/or Wagyu beef*
Paperthin presliced pork belly*
Boned chicken thigh or breast
Fish fillets (halibut, lingcod, and/or black cod, skinned if you like)
Manila or littleneck clams
Squid (calamari) rings
Large shrimp (whole, or shelled and deveined; whole will give the broth more flavor)
Blocks of firm or mediumfirm tofu Tofu skins (yuba)*
VEGETABLE OPTIONS (CHOOSE 2 OR MORE FROM EACH CATEGORY)
Baby bok choy
Small daikon radish
Enoki and/or beech*
RICE, NOODLES, AND DUMPLINGS (CHOOSE RICE PLUS 1 OR MORE)
Cooked jasmine rice
Dried beanthread (cellophane) noodles
Waterpacked shirataki (Japanese konjac yam noodles)*
Storebought wontons or dumplings (2 per person)
BROTHS (MAKE 8 QTS. TOTAL)
Boiling water as needed to replenish broth pots (keep hot on stove)
On a separate table or counter, set out several condiments (at least 5, ideally) and at least 3 fresh aromatic seasonings
so diners can make their own sauce blends. Chinese hot pot usually includes soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, red chili oil, XO sauce, a fish-and-dried-shrimp paste called sa cha, thinly sliced green onions, minced cilantro and garlic, and raw eggs. For Japanese hot pot, it’s ponzu (citrus-soy sauce) and/or goma-dare (sesame sauce). Try adding other kinds of chili sauces, vinegars, grated fresh ginger, or thinly sliced fresh jalapeños.
Melissa’s Favorite Sauce Blends
- Citrusy & Bright: 1 part ponzu to ¼ part sa cha + sprinkle of garlic, cilantro, green onions, and red chili oil.
- Rich & Savory: 1 raw egg + spoonful each of soy sauce and sa cha + sprinkle of toasted sesame oil, garlic, and green onions.
- Nutty & Creamy: 1 part goma-dare + sprinkle of ground sesame seeds and green onions.
*Find more info on these ingredients in our Asian Market Shopping Guide.
HOW TO PREP
Part of the fun of hot pot is creating beautiful platters of food. Group ingredients by category (for instance, arrange leafy greens together). Consider plating half the food and saving the rest to replenish platters as needed (everything will be fresher that way).
PRESLICED BEEF AND PORK
- Lift onto platters in one piece, to preserve their shingled arrangement.
- Freeze 30 minutes to make slicing easier, then trim fat and cut across the grain into 1/4-in.-thick pieces.
- For fish, remove pinbones or cut out bony center strip; slice fillets 1/4 in. thick on the diagonal. Clams and mussels: Remove any tufted “beards,” rinse well, drain, and chill in a bowl covered with a damp paper towel for up to 1 day. Sea scallops: Remove side muscle, then slice scallop into thirds horizontally. Fish balls/cakes: Thaw before serving.
- Rinse blocks, dry between layers of paper towels, then cut into 1-in. cubes. Cut tofu skins into 2- by 3-in. rectangles.
- Trim stem ends. Stack any large pieces and cut in half crosswise.
- For Napa cabbage, cut into 1-in.-thick rounds.
- Baby bok choy: Halve or quarter lengthwise.
- Green onions: Cut into 21/2-in. lengths.
- Carrots: Peel, then very thinly slice on the bias (use a handheld slicer if you like).
- Daikon: Peel, cut in half lengthwise, then cut into 1/4-in.-thick half-moons.
- Kabocha squash: Halve almost through stem with a very sharp knife, then break apart and scoop out seeds; set cut sides down, then slice ¼-in. thick and halve slices crosswise.
- Lotus root: Trim ends, then peel root with a vegetable peeler and thinly slice.
- For all, trim stem ends (or whole stems if they’re tough).
- Trumpet: Slice thinly lengthwise.
- Enoki/beech: Separate into small clusters.
- Shiitake: Halve or quarter caps.
- Oyster: Separate into small clusters and halve any large caps.
- For bean-thread noodles, use skimmers to cook directly in broth until tender, about 5 minutes. For shirataki, drain, rinse with cold water followed by hot water, and drain again. They are fully cooked, so they only need warming in broth.
- Serve frozen to keep them from sticking together on the plate.
HOT POT HOW-TO
- Up to a day ahead, wash and prep ingredients. Chill in clean plastic bags.
- Arrange the table (see tips below).
- Set food on platters, with serving chopsticks or tongs, and set up the sauce bar (see above), with plenty of spoons.
- Put burners on either end of the table and top with broth pots. Arrange food platters around them, plus a few big strainers for communal dipping. Spoon rice into everyone’s bowl; it’s the landing pad for cooked morsels.
- Start dipping! Cooking times range from just a few seconds for meats to 5 minutes for root vegetables. Whenever the broth level looks low, add boiling water (the broth will be quite concentrated).
SETTING THE HOT POT TABLE
Here’s what you need for a hot pot dinner serving 8 to 10.
- 2 FREESTANDING BUTANE GAS BURNERS, preferably at least 15,000 BTU (such as Iwatani brand; see amazon.com). Or, use portable induction burners (at kitchenware shops or online).
- 2 WIDE, SHALLOW BROTH POTS, 10 to 12 in. wide, 4-qt. capacity; stainless steel, brass, or Japanese donabe (earthenware pots). If serving two broths, try pots with center dividers so each end of the table can have both broths; find at Asian markets or online.
- SMALL TO MEDIUM PLATTERS AND BOWLS for raw ingredients (each type of protein should have its own platter).
- MINI SERVING TONGS OR CHOPSTICKS, 1 set per platter.
- 2 TO 4 LARGE BAMBOO STRAINERS for dipping big pieces of food.
- RICE BOWLS, CHOPSTICKS, CHOPSTICK RESTS, AND SOUP SPOONS, 1 per person.
- SMALL SAUCE BOWLS, 1 to 2 per person.
- BRASS WIRE SKIMMERS (with slightly flared baskets 21⁄2 to 3 in. wide) for dipping bites, with easy- to-bend handles; 1 per person. Find at Asian markets or on amazon.com.
- FINE-MESH SKIMMER for skimming any foam from broth toward end.
- 2 SOUP LADLES for scooping broth into bowls at end.