An Introduction to the Chinese Hotpot – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
[The hot pot broths]
In China, going out to eat is a beloved activity that occurs on a regular basis. One of the most popular options is heading out to a hot pot place. As the name hot pot suggests, this style of cuisine is essentially a soup-centric style of fondue: you dip an assortment of food mix-ins into boiling pots of broth. It has a long and esteemed position in Chinese culture that spans about 1,000 years. While the details of its origin story are not entirely clear, many credit the Mongols for the creation of hot pot. In fact, one colorful anecdote claims:
[During an episode of the Mongolian Invasion of China, a few Mongol horsemen]…were so bent on conquest that they couldn’t be bothered to carry cooking utensils. Many didn’t even bother to carry food, since the villages they were conquering usually provided everything they needed. Story has it that eventually the Mongolians found themselves facing the Great Wall of China with no idea of how they might cross it. They settled down for a siege, but soon became hungry. None of the riders had cooking utensils, so they eventually decided to boil some water in a helmet. Bits of food were tossed in until they were cooked, and the hot pot was born. (akm20myonmi, 2016).
[Vera, Bree, Gao Sheng, and I having hot pot together.]
[Hot pot meat and seafood mix-ins]
[Hot pot vegetable]
Whether that story is legitimate or just a legend, hotpot quickly caught on in China and developed into an extremely popular form of cuisine that is still widely enjoyed today. However, it is not a simple meal to prepare; rather, hotpot features a series of steps that need to be completed before indulging in it. When a group of people goes out for hotpot, they must first order a few big pots of broth (in my own experiences, my friends and I usually picked a tomato-based broth and a spicy broth heaving over with peppers). The dining table come equipped with burners, so once the broths arrive, the group of diners lets them sit on the burners until they start to boil. While they wait for that to happen (because as the old mantra says, “a watched pot never boils”), they select their food mix-ins and dipping sauces. They can choose a huge assortment of foods to have with their hot pot; their options range from greens and vegetables, thin slices of meat, seafood, tofu, noodles, dumplings, breads…really, the sky is the limit. Similarly, they can customize the dipping sauces by brewing together creative concoctions at a sauce bar. Ingredients for dipping sauces include tahini, peanut butter, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, chives, and even more garnishes that truly allow them to be mix-and-match maestros. Once the food mix-ins and sauces are gathered, the group plops the foodstuffs into the boiling broths until they are thoroughly cooked through. Then they pick up the submerged foods with chopsticks or spoons, dip them in their tailor-made sauces, and then gobble them up. They rinse and repeat this process, often with the accompaniment of white rice and plum juice to counteract excessive spiciness, until all the food runs out or the diners become too full to finish everything off (the latter scenario is much more common).
[Hot pot tofu, bread, and noodle mix-ins]
[Hot pot dried noodles]
[White rice and a bowl of dipping sauce]
Hotpot is a very fun meal to eat due to its limitless possibilities, as every visit offers the opportunity to try new broths, new food mix-ins, and create new sauces. But even more than that, it serves as a great social activity. Hot pot works much better with large groups of people in order to vary the types and quantities of the ingredients, and is just simply a great way to bring people together to chat and catch up while they eat delicious food together. I personally had several wonderful opportunities to share hot pot with several of my closest friends, which served as some of the best bonding experiences during my time in China. I hope that many more people, whether in China or elsewhere, can further learn about and engage in this tradition so that they can try new food while making great friends!
[The dipping sauce bar: truly an embarrassment of riches]
[The hot pot is boiled and ready to be eaten!]
[Cheesy hot pot: an intriguing spin on traditional hotpot]
akm20myonmi. “10 Unique Facts To Know About Chinese Hot Pot. Tabelog.us.TABElog. 10 March 08, 2016. Accessed July 28, 2016. http://www.tabelog.us/articles/10-unique-facts-to-know-about-chinese-hot-pot.
Vogel, Mark R. “HOT POT!” FoodReference.com. March 24, 2010. Accessed July 28, 2016. http://www.foodreference.com/html/chinese-hot-pot-a310.html.
Wu, Annie. “Chinese Hotpot — A Popular Chinese Dish You Should Try.” Chinahighlights.com. China Highlights. July 21, 2016. Accessed July 28, 2016. http://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-food/hotpot.htm.
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19 responses to “An Introduction to the Chinese Hotpot – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports”
I think this is an interesting story. Its interesting that during war even an invention can still be used by millions and maybe billions. When I read this story I thought of during World War 1 when soldiers put a coating around their chocolate to stop it from melting, thus M&M’s. Food around the globe is so diverse as along with people themselves. Eating around the world is much a social activity than just eating itself.
What a different style of restaurant! Do you find that it takes a lot longer to eat at a hotpot than it would in a typical restaurant back home? You said it is very common for people to eat out in China, so are restaurants more health-based in China than they would be in the States? Are there a lot of hotpot restaurants in China? What is the average cost? What a neat idea, though. I can imagine it would be a wonderful place to go with friends and family!
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I absolutely love hearing about your experiences in China! This specific piece is quite interesting due to its unique content. I liked hearing the history behind the hot pot and the various items that go into it. The social aspect of the hot pot is fascinating as well, since it does a great job of bringing together friends and family. Based on your experiences in China, do you find that people eat out quite often? Or is it comparable to the US? It seems that dining out always seems to be a topic of interest in the US, seeing that people here are always mentioning how they eat out too much, therefore spending too much. I wonder if this is the same response in China? Great read!
It almost seems like people are at home in a restaurant because everyone is cooking and adding to the pot. It seems that sharing meals at restaurants is a common theme in Chinese culture. How long does the whole ordeal take? It doesn’t seem like a quick meal, but I can see the beauty in spending time talking while the food is cooking. The last image looks amazing and I wonder how else you could twist the hot pot. I’ve only tried fondue style one time and it definitely was fun and different from any other meal.
I love hearing about your experiences in China! It’s fascinating to hear that going out to eat is a beloved activity in China that occurs regularly. Do you know why that has become a part of China’s culture? It’s so interesting to hear about the story regarding the hot pot and how it’s become part of the Chinese culture. Based on your photos, it looks like a delicious dish! On average, how much does it cost to order a hot pot at a restaurant? In addition to how much time do people usually spend at the restaurant finishing everything up? This definitely seems like the ideal meal to share with family and friends! Thank you for sharing the great post, Marin!
I love the idea of the hotpot at a restaurant. Around the holidays in family we have big family gatherings and usually do some sort of fondu because it is a simple way to enjoy family time and make delicious food at the same time. The idea of it being in a restaurant and like you said creates a social aspect which I think is great because you are interacting and having fun with other while making the food. The fear I have is if the food gets cooked enough or is it checked by a restaurant employee before people eat the food they cooked. Other than that I would love to go to a hot pot restaurant and experience it for myself.
I really enjoyed this article; growing up with cultural influence of bonding over food, I could identify with this. The way in which people interact with each other with food is such a powerful and trans-formative experience. I was not aware of this traditional Chinese dish, and I am curious about its origins (if the story you shared happens to be a legend). What a wonderful experience for you to share with your friends of a different culture, what might they think of going to an American “Old Country Buffet” or something like that?
I’m very intrigued by the idea that you go to a restaurant and essentially make the food yourself! Although the options are limitless within the building and the experience is different, I’m amazed by the genius of the inventor! My favorite way to eat with those closest to me is by sharing food. It’s such a simple way of being close with one another without having to try super hard. I’m also curious about the picture of some seafood. Is that a whole fish?? How was the transition of new food culture for you? Very interesting article! Thank you for sharing!
This is so interesting! Is there anything that is taboo to put into the hot pot? It is so much fun to see the neat combinations you can make with hot pot. Wish we had something like that in Duluth!
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us! I have always been intrested in hot pots ever since I watched some videos on Instagram of people cooking in them. I just never knew what they were! I find it fascinating to go to a restaurant and basically cook for yourself, since it is very different from restaurants in America. I also really liked the story about the Mongolian horseman. It was a nice anecdote!
Thank you for sharing your experience! I find it fascinating that people believe that the hot pot was created by Mongol warriors that were hungry. I hope that this anecdote turns out to be true some time in the future because it adds to the experience of trying the dish. This seems like a wonderful way to eat out. From reading the article it feels like it is a group effort though no one really has to compromise when it comes to food because there are so many possibilities. Some questions I had are. How much does a hot pot usually cost? Is it worth it? And are there any hot pot places in the US? After seeing those pictures I really want to try a hot pot. Great Article!
I think that the cuisine of a country can say a lot about its history and its culture. It is amazing to understand how influences from other nations can be very evident in a dish and how flavors can be very distinct and descriptive of a particular culture. I also think that the way people eat, either with their hands, forks, or chopsticks, says a lot about their culture as well. Personally this makes me ponder about the food culture in Honduras would be if we had not been colonized.
Your experience is very interesting, I’ve never had the opportunity to eat at a hot pot place or even know where to go here in Minnesota to try it. I’m glad you told the story behind how the hot pot was born, it makes it more understanding of why this type food is popular. I like how this dish can have a variety of food and how you can pick the ingredients for you hot pot to your own liking. I am going to have to definitely give this a try in the near future.
I have never heard of this Chinese style of cuisine: hotpot but it makes me hungry for some food now. I enjoyed the fact that you included some historical and cultural information because it helped me better understand the importance of the hotpot cuisine style of eating. Are there quite a few hotpot restaurants in China or do you know if there is any hotpot restaurants in the United States? Hotpot it seems to be an excellent way for people to come together and essentially cook a meal but also socialize at the same time. It would be cool to experience hotpot cuisine for myself because of the limitless possibilities of vegetables, meats, noodles, and the fact you can create your own broth. It’s similar to building your own pizza in a sense. I think your article was a good read because I got a chance to learn about a cultural cuisine style from another part of the world. Hopefully you will provide more articles about other cultural activities you have partaken in while in China.
I have never heard of this Chinese style of cuisine: hotpot but it makes me hungry for some food now. I enjoyed the fact that you included some historical and cultural information because it helped me better understand the importance of the hotpot cuisine style of eating. Are there quite a few hotpot restaurants in China or do you know if there is any hotpot restaurants in the United States? Hotpot it seems to be an excellent way for people to come together and essential cook a meal but also socialize at the same time. It would be cool to experience hotpot cuisine for myself because the limitless possibilities of vegetables, meats, noodles, and the fact you can create your own broth. It’s similar to building your own pizza in a sense. I think your article was a good read because I got a chance to learn about cultural cuisine styles from another part of the world. Hopefully you will provide more articles about other cultural activities you have partaken in while in China.
That hot pot looks delicious, and I would love to try one someday. This article made me wonder if it is more common in China to have a communal dish at a restaurant that everyone shares. Here in the U.S. it seems that restaurants rarely have dishes meant to be shared, so everyone orders their own meal. One notable exception here is pizza. On one hand, it is nice when everyone orders their own meal because everyone can get exactly what they want. However, there is a sense of togetherness created when everyone has to discuss and compromise to order a dish together. It would be interesting to go to a restaurant like this with my friends or family.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us! I love hot pot. The pictures that you provided gives a person the perfect picture of what a hot pot looks like. It makes my mouth watered and my stomach grumbles in despair of hunger. It reminds me of home, especially the preparation of making food. My mom takes at least ten hours to prepare Pho, a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup. There is a lot of time consumption, as well as years to master. I believe creating food brings people together with a smile and a filled belly.