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What you need to know about Chinese hotpot

Patricia Hului

Raise your hand if you love Chinese hotpot!

Putting aside that you will really need a shower after your meal, the idea of cooking everything in a pot and eating together is an experience everyone should try at least once.

Here are five things you should know about Chinese hotpot:

1.The history of Chinese hotpot

According to the book A History of Food Culture in China, the idea of hotpot cooking originates from as far back as the Neolithic era when people sat around a fire pit for communal dining.

Rongguang Zhao, Gangliu Wang, Aimee Yiran Wang stated that sitting around a fire eating dinner from a hanging pot was also a way to get warm.

A pot made of copper created during the Three Kingdoms Period (200-280AD) is now known to be the origin of hotpot.

During the mid-late Qing Dynasty, hotpot became popular among Chinese emperors.

Qianlong Emperor (1711-1799) specifically was a hardcore hotpot fan.

According to the documents from the Imperial Household Department, the emperor ate 23 different types of hotpot 66 times in one month from August 16 to September 16 in 1799.

He also ate more than 200 hotpot dishes in 1789. Qianlong’s royal hotpot included ingredients such as “sliced pheasant, wild boar meat, roe deer tenderloin, wild duck breast and squid roll”.

Qianlong was not the only Chinese emperor who enjoyed hotpot.

When his successor Jiaqing Emperor ascended the throne on Feb 9, 1796, his coronation banquet served 1,550 hotpots for the attendees.

2.The common ingredients are basic stock, protein, starch, vegetable and condiments.

So what is a hotpot?

It is a pot of simmering broth in which diners cook their raw ingredients together.

The basic ingredients for a hotpot can be divided into five categories; the stock, protein, starch, vegetables and condiments.

For meat lovers out there, hotpot is where you can go crazy with the ingredients.

Forget about the usual pork, chicken, beef, one can opt for unconventional ingredients such as beef tongue, offal, pork brain and blood tofu.

Additionally, seafood lovers can even put in their favourite sea creatures like squid, lobster, crawfish, octopus or cuttlefish.

And of course for those who don’t mind having processed food, a hotpot can have ingredients such as beef balls, fish balls and different kinds of tofu.

As for vegetables, a hotpot may include bok choy, napa cabbage, bean sprouts, lettuce, spinach and more.

For some carbs, the common ingredients are any types of Chinese noodles, glass noodle and instant ramen and udon.

A feast of hotpot is incomplete without variety of condiments such as soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar and minced garlic or ginger.

3.There are so many variations of Chinese hotpot

A yin-yang hotpot with both spicy and non-spicy broth.

Generally, Chinese hotpot can be divided into southern style and northern style, following the cultural regions of China.

The northern style of hotpot comes with simpler broth while the southern style leads toward spicier broth and variety of dipping sauces.

Speaking of southern style hotpot, the most famous of its kind is none other than Chongqing hotpot.

Also known as spicy hotpot, it is similar to the famous Chinese malatang.

A spicy Chongqing hotpot soup base is mainly made of red chilli oil flavoured with beef fat and all kinds of spices such as bay leaf, clove and cinnamon.

Unlike the southern style hotpot which is known for its spicy and intense flavour, the northern style hotpot has milder broth.

The most common type of northern style hotpot is the instant-boiled mutton or Mongolian fire pot.

Instead of the soup base, the focus of this hotpot dish is on the main ingredients which mainly using different cut of mutton.

The southern style hotpot is known for its spiciness.

4.Other variations of Chinese hotpot from outside of China

Shabu-shabu spread.

The idea having a wide array of raw ingredients and cooking them together in boiling water not only can be found in China.

In Japan for instance, shabu-shabu is a hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled in water and served with dipping sauce.

It is common to cook the ingredient piece by piece right at the table while eating when it comes to shabu-shabu.

Similarly, Thai suki is a Thai variant of hotpot deriving from Chinese hotpot.

To cater to Thai taste, the dipping sauce is usually made from chilli, lime and coriander leaves.

5.Believe it or not, there is a self-heating hotpot package in the market

Let say you want to give a Chinese hotpot but lacking in companions, fret not.

There is a self-heating hotpot package available in the market which is perfect for one person.

A self-heating hotpot was first introduced in China a few year ago thanks to the rise in popularity in Sichuan-based hotpot restaurants.

It requires no external heat source and all you need is just a bottle of water.

The package include a packet of quicklime. When mixed with water, it will release enough heat to cook the hotpot.

This instant food wonder comes with many different kinds of dry ingredients like black fungus, vermicelli and mushroom as well as variety of flavours such as sweet and sour tomato, chicken pepper and Mala beef.

All images are stock photos from Pixabay.com.

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