What is a Hot Pot?

Celeste Heiter

A hot pot is a popular communal dish in many cuisines. It typically features a simmering kettle of broth placed in the center of the dining table with a variety of raw, cook-it-yourself ingredients. Ingredients include meats, seafood, and vegetables, as well as noodles or dumplings. Foods may be added to the hot pot with skewers or chopsticks. Condiments and dipping sauces may also be served with a hot pot meal.

Cilantro is often used to make a dipping sauce for Thai hot pot.
Cilantro is often used to make a dipping sauce for Thai hot pot.

Hot pots are ideal for communal dining in both family and social settings, especially throughout Asia. A hot pot is served in a metal container with a shallow, circular moat for the broth surrounding a tall chimney for burning coals to heat the broth. Clay vessels may be used for hot pot dishes, and the warmer may be installed as a fixture in the dining table.

Thinly sliced beef for a hot pot.
Thinly sliced beef for a hot pot.

These dishes are popular throughout China, where they are called fire pots. There are many regional styles, especially in Beijing and the provinces of Szechuan, Yunan, and Canton. Chinese cuisine includes Mongolian and Manchurian hot pots, and Taiwan has its own regional style.

Tofu is often added at the end of the meal.
Tofu is often added at the end of the meal.

The broth for Chinese hot pots varies from mild to spicy. Ingredients include a wide array of meats, seafood, and vegetables. Noodles, dumplings, and tofu are often added toward the end of the meal when the broth is served as a soup. Condiments may include soy sauce, hoisin, and chili paste.

Japan’s hot pots are called chankonabe, shabu shabu, and sukiyaki. Chankonabe is a hearty stew that is popular among sumo wrestlers. Shabu shabu is a lighter dish featuring thinly-sliced beef as the main ingredient in a seaweed broth called dashi. Sukiyaki is a combination of beef, tofu, and vegetables in a broth of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin, with raw eggs as a condiment.

Variations on the hot pot are popular throughout Southeast Asia. Korea’s version, similar to sukiyaki, is called chongol. In Thailand, suki hot pots feature fresh ingredients in a light broth with chili paste, lime and cilantro dipping sauce. In Vietnam, hot pots called lau are made with fish in a sour broth. Malaysian steamboats feature seafood as the main ingredient in a broth with lemongrass, lime and ginger.

Fondue is the European version of the hot pot, with variations in Swiss, French, and Italian cuisines. Fondue pots are filled with oil for cooking meats and cheese sauce for dipping bread. Fruits or cakes may also dipped in chocolate fondue.

In Europe, a hot pot is known as a fondue.
In Europe, a hot pot is known as a fondue.

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Discussion Comments


This is another of those articles I thought meant one thing, but it meant something else. Obviously, I've heard of the hot pot dish in Asian cooking, and fondue on the European side.

However, when I saw the title, the first thing that popped into my head was the electric pot that most dorm students bought if they couldn't have microwave ovens in their rooms. It has a heating element in the bottom and is very handy for heating water or soup for a weekend meal in the dorm. I knew some picky eaters in college who would have starved without a hot pot. They wouldn't be caught dead in the cafeteria.

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