Last week, I was totally obsessed with hosting hotpot. I used my trusty rice cooker and, um, sorry to say but Hot Pot Week kind of broke it. So, first thing to say: Ye, Do Not Be Stupid. Give Your Rice Cooker A Break. (Avoid having it turned on for six hours straight. And avoid having it turned on for over six hours straight over five consecutive days.) But, you know, all that being said, after a week, we ended up with a nice check-list of what to buy. The nice thing is that everyone can contribute and partake in cooking. It truly is the most communal meal.
The equipment and utensils:
- A rice cooker – or an actual hotpot
- A strainer or two
- A big soup spoon
The first thing we do is prepare the base. We’re into soupy dinners, so the broth is pretty important. We are also pretty lazy and don’t have so much time for preparation, so ours are simple! We boil water and bring it to the cooker, adding salt and pepper and some chilli flakes. Then we start to mix in all of this:
- Stock cubes (vegetable, chicken, seafood, whatever you want) — dissolved separately and then poured in
- Slices of fresh ginger
- Chopped chilli
- Hot sauce — poured in and left to simmer
I set the rice cooker to cook mode until it starts bubbling and then I set it down to keep warm.
I like to make noodles separately and put them in a bowl so people can pick what they want. It’s also nice because the rice cooker is small, and we don’t want to mix it allllll up. Space is precious. That being said, I put them in when everything else has been cooking a while, so they can soak up all the flavours.
For a meat hotpot, we pre-slice at least two meats:
- Pork belly
I also like adding meat balls when we have them! These go into the hotpot first because, you know, you don’t want to fuck with meat.
For seafood, we usually opted for shellfish:
In a strainer, we place sliced:
And of course, there’s usually a mixture of fish balls from the frozen aisle at the local Chinese supermarket. Those are the best.
And then we get to the good stuff: vegetables. You can put almost any vegetable here – just be conscious of cooking times. Mushrooms cook quicker than potatoes, for example. Our go-tos are:
- Leafy greens:
- Bok choy, watercress, spinach, lettuce
- Root vegetables:
- Carrots, lotus root, sweet potatoes
- Button, portobello, shiitake, enoki
- Baby corn
We eat our hotpot meals with bowls, so we can pour in some of the base and have it as a soup. But, lastly, we also like to have a really simple dipping sauce:
- Soy sauce
- Sesame oil
- Sesame seeds
- Chopped spring onions
- Hoisin sauce