What is Chinese Hot Pot? – The Perfect Guide

What is Chinese Hot Pot? – The Perfect Guide

Chinese cuisine is full of variety. From stir-fries to soups and steamed dishes to deep-fry, there seems to be a dish for everyone. One of the most popular meals is Chinese hot pot.

What is Chinese Hot Pot?

Chinese hot pot is a style of eating where a pot of simmering broth sits in the middle of the table with raw ingredients places all around it. People add and cook whatever they want from these ingredients in the broth. It’s sometimes referred to as “Chinese fondue”.

Although it’s generally favoured in the winter since it’s very warming, Chinese hot pot is still enjoyed in the summertime. It also has a long history in Chinese culture, going all the way back to the Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC – 256 BC). Emperors and empresses even held hot pot banquets to welcome winter.

Chinese hot pot meals are extremely popular because they enhance friendship and unite family, colleagues and friends. The meal itself is inherently social since several people sit around a pot, talking and eating. The warm atmosphere also creates a cozy comfortable and relaxed environment. The unique way of eating has also spurred the popularity of hot pot, especially in North America.

Many hot pot restaurants have opened up in Toronto including, Macao Doulao, ChongQing Liuyishou Hot Pot and Xiaobiandan. Some of these restaurants have added a new flare to eating hot pot. Unique ingredients, new broth flavours and even individualized hot pots are all part of the mix now.


Chinese hot pot can include a variety of ingredients and broths. It varies from restaurant to restaurant and region to region.

Hot pot varieties are usually differentiated by the type of broth used. The most popular type of hot pot is Sichuan hot pot. It’s most famous for the numbing and spicy flavour of the broth.

Popular ingredients include lamb, beef, shrimp, fish, fish balls, shellfish, tofu, napa cabbage, bok choy, mushrooms and udon noodles. This is only a small preview of the different ingredients you can add to the hot pot. You can read more about hot pot ingredients here.

To add to all the variety, there are dipping sauces for the cooked food. You can combine whatever you’d like to create your perfect sauce. Some people enjoy the typical sesame paste sauce with their food while others enjoy a spicier and salty one made with soy sauce. Some people add in a raw egg!

Hot Pot Etiquette

Hot pot sounds easy enough. Just put the ingredients in and let them cook, right? There’s a special way to eat Chinese hot pot to make sure it’s as enjoyable as possible.

Something to keep in mind before digging in is to cook your ingredients gradually and pace it with the group’s eating speed. The food is best enjoyed hot and as soon as you scoop it out of the broth. It’s also no fun waiting for it to cook during the middle of the meal.

Speaking of cooking the food, remember to cook the food that takes the longest first. This includes hearty vegetables and some of the meat. Try not to throw everything in at once or the pot will overflow and it will take longer to cook everything. A good rule of thumb is to make sure the soup is boiling again before adding more.
Since you are cooking raw meat and seafood, it’s important to use designated chopsticks or scoopers. This also helps with keeping things sanitary since you are sharing a pot with others.

Hot pot is a naturally social meal so there are some unspoken rules too. Sharing is the most important one. Dole out meatballs to your friends, don’t double-dip and don’t hog all the sauce to yourself!

Now you’re all ready to enjoy a great meal with some friends and family!


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