During the first week of the Chinese New Year, it was extremely cold and the perfect time to have hot pot for dinners. Many familes who were not feasting in restaurants chose to feast at home with hot pot instead. Hot pot doesn't involve much cooking or preparation (by a single person) but instead needs everyone's effort and cooperation. It's a fun way of having a family dinner and hence has proven to be highly popular with the Chinese families, especially during the winter.
Hot Pot (typically known as Steamboat in S.E. Asia) is a method of sharing food by cooking within a metal pot in the center of the table. Food are dipped (like beef and prawns) or cooked (like veges and seafood) within that big pot. Most of the food are raw and are bought from the markets or supermarkets. All one has to do is to rinse them before gathering every item & leave it on the table to be shared. It's somewhat like eating Korean BBQ. In this case, it's hot pot. In the case of Japanese, it shall be Shabu-shabu.
What is it? It's been said hot pot originated since Genghis Khan's days. How true is that is anyone's guess. Perhaps the movie Mongul may have shed some light but you'll have to check with @Woopak_the_thrill on that count. It was written that hot pot has more than a thousand years of history, dating back as far as the Tang Dynasty (AD 600+ to 900). There are some variations as to the ingredients used within the whole of China but generally, it's one popular method of cooking, especially during the winter.
Traditionally, it's known as Huoguo (火锅) in Mandarin or Dabinlou (打邊爐) in Cantonese. Huoguo translates literally to Fire Pot. Other than a steel pot, there is the soup base and the ingredients. As far as the soup base goes in the Cantonese version, it is merely broth from chicken or pork. However, in certain parts of China, there are some variations to this. I'll illustrate later.
What does it constitute? Common Ingredients The common used ingredients are some meat, seafood and veges. Noodles, Udons or Vermicelli may be included.
Meat: Beef (I have tried some good quality beef but certainly no Kobe beef, in case you're curious ;-)), Pork, Chicken, Lamb, Offals, etc... (Recently in Shanghai, I have even had pig brain supplied by one fine restaurant which is constantly packed!)
Seafood: Prawns, Cuttlefish (love this!), Scallops, Fish, Cockles, Squid, Mussels, Fish, Lobster, Geoduck or anything else you fancy. (It's really up to you, afterall you're the one eating it!)
Vegetables: Bok Choy, Fat Choy, Spinach, Tongho (this one is esp. great with steamboat), Taro, Pumpkin, Napa Cabbage, Mushrooms (all kinds), etc... Tofu is also a common item served.
Condiments Hoisin Sauce, Soy Sauce, Peanut Sauce, Sa Cha Sauce, Chili, etc (again, whatever works for you although in hot pot restaurants, a variety of sauces are available for your selection and mixing).
Different Types of Hot Pots Variations Sichuan Hot Pot This kind of hot pot is mostly served in Sichuan cities of Chengdu & Chongqing. Due to the humid and cold weather in this part of China, people here love to include the spicy version of soup base. As you can see from the picture below, it has 2 different sections. Those who prefer hot and spicy (to which a spice known as huajiao which creates the numb and spicy sensation in the tongue is included). As much as I love spicy food, I do not like the mala (麻辣) sensation. Numb? Not for me ;-) I have tried it more than once though and still don't like it.
This hot pot has also been called the Yuanyang (鸳鸯) Hot Pot. Honored as Sichuan Innovative Hotpot, it's been said that Deng Xiaoping got his inspiration to govern the SAR (Special Administrative Region), ie. Hong Kong & Macao from his hot pot. In other words, one country, 2 ways of governing. Interesting, don't you think?
Beijing Hot Pot Shuanyangrou (涮羊肉) is the most popular kind of hot pot in Northern China. This is an entirely different kind of hot pot. Not only is it different from the common type of hot pot (which I'm currently referring to those well known in South East Asia as well as Southern China and Hong Kong), it is also different from Sichuan Hot Pot.
The main difference lies in the way of eating as well as the meat. As the Chinese term Shuanyangrou (涮羊肉) literally means instant boiled lamb. Hence, what you eat mostly is anything that's related to the lamb, be it the heart, kidney, liver, or other offals. Mostly, it's thinly sliced meat that's the main attraction here. I didn't think I'd like lamb that much until I've tried this in the winter during my stay in Beijing. Here, the soup base is not important. Also, every person has his/her own hot pot. Very westernized way of eating :-) (I must qualify that this is how it's done in some restaurants, not all.) Condiments are important and makes a lot of difference. One has to try to find out which type one'll like.
Tip: Beijing Manfulou Restaurant (满富楼涮羊肉) is one of my favorites. It is very near to the Forbidden City and hence definitely convenient if you're heading to China for a vacation. Generally, this kind of hot pot may be had in cities like Tianjin and Shanghai too. You may also ask for bbq lamb in these restaurants. They make great lamb kebab!
Mongolian Hot Pot (Chinese Hot Pot) In China, there is a restaurant chain Little Sheep Hot Pot (小肥羊) which claims to serve Mongolia Hot Pot. I did go Mongolia but I don't think I've seen this restaurant chain. However, I haven't tried it but was told by many in China that it is really good, one of the very best.
It's official website claims that it has a branch in San Francisco area! So, how about it? Sharrie calling @woopak & @devora, how about giving it a try and do us the courtesy of writing a review on it? ;-) Here's the location: 34396 Alvarado Niles Road, Union City. Tel: 510-6759919.
Japanese Shabu Shabu (or Syabu Syabu)
The Japanese Shabu-shabu originated from China's Shuanyangrou (aka Beijing Hot Pot) as mentioned earlier. Shabu-shabu was a registered trademark. It originated from the "swish swish" sound that was made when the beef slice is being swished around in the hot pot.
Shabu-shabu uses mainly beef instead of lamb. Tender ribeye steak is often used although I'm sure there must be some Kobe beef available in Japan?! The soup base may be made of dashi or simply water. Sometimes, kombu (kelp) is used. The condiment here is mainly ponzu (a citrus based sauce or goma (sesame) sauce.
Sukiyaki When it comes to Sukiyaki, it's not cooked in hot pot made of copper. Instead, it's clay or cast iron. This type of hot pot is known as Nabemono (or simply Nabe) in Japan. It's a one pot dish. Portable gas stove is commonly used in this case.
Sukiyaki has a sweet inclination in its soup due to mirin & its sugar content. Beef is used and also Japanese mushrooms. Tofu and veges are commonly found in sukiyaki. Stew everything in the soup which may also has some sake in it. Then dip them in a bowl of raw beaten eggs before eating them! I don't particularly like Sukiyaki as I don't fancy sweet soup that much.
Singapore & Malaysia Steamboat In this region of the world, hot pot is popularly known as steamboat. The ingredients are mostly seafood (including cockles, cuttlefish, squids, fishballs, etc.) and sometimes precooked yong tau foo. Due to the humid and hot weather in this area, electric or gas portable stove is usually used with the air conditioning blasting around you. There are quite a few steamboat restaurants in Singapore. I've only tried Coca which originated from Thailand. Steamboat in Singapore is mostly buffet style so you can eat to your heart's content ;-) In this part of the world, you can be sure the condiment will be hot & spicy!
Steamboat is fun and engaging. It's one sociable activities and generally enjoyed by adults and children alike. I remembered some great time while in university having steamboats with my friends during those cold winter months in Toronto. Interesting enough, I don't think most Americans have had steamboats or hot pots at home! With electric/gas portable stove so readily available, why not? Considering the long winter in the U.S. & Canada, this is certainly a great way to keep warm & fun!
In Beijing, the most popular hot pot is none other than Shua Yang Rou (刷羊肉), i.e., dipping slices of lamb into the hot pot. Typically, everyone gets his/her own small pot and tada, all you have to do is cook whatever you order. These are specialty stores which serve mostly lamb related items, like offals, etc... beef may be ordered as well but not the popular choice. However, you can still visit if you're vegetarian as there are lots of choices to choose from. After … more
Hot pot, less commonly Chinese fondue or steamboat, refers to several East Asian varieties of stew, consisting of a simmering metal pot of stock at the center of the dining table. While the hot pot is kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table. Typical hot pot dishes include thinly sliced meat, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, egg dumplings, and seafood. The cooked food is usually eaten with a dipping sauce. In many areas, hot pot meals are often eaten in the winter.
Some have claimed that the Asian hot pot tradition had its origins in the region of Mongolia, even before the rise of the Mongols, although there is little historical evidence to support this, including the fact that hot pot is not a part of Mongolian cuisine but rather Chinese cuisine. Another more likely claim of origin is from near the Sichuan province of China, more specifically - the Ba region surrounding the municipality of Chongqing. In any event, the practice of hot pot spread to other parts of Asia through Chinese influence.
The Mongolian hot pot tradition originated from northern nomadic tribes. The Mongolian version of the steaming feast has been called the father of all Chinese hot pot. The Chinese hot pot boasts a history of more than 1000 years. Both the preparation method and the required equipment are unknown in the cuisine of Mongolia of today. Due to the complexity and specialization of the utensils and the method of eating it, hot pot cooking is much ...