If you're planning to travel to China, hot pot is a special food experience you must try! Whether you go to a restaurant to enjoy it or want to recreate it for yourself at home, hot pot is great anytime and a special traditional meal that Chinese people have been enjoying for more than 1000 years.
Hot pot (火锅 huǒguō) is a traditional Chinese cooking experience that involves a giant pot of simmering broth in the center of a table. This pot can be divided into parts to hold different kinds of broths, normally a spicy and non-spicy side. Many raw foods will be cooked inside the pot, including thinly sliced meats, vegetables, tofu, noodles, dumplings, and seafood.
Hot pot is said to have become popular during the Qing dynasty when many emperors began eating it. One legend shares that the Qianlong Emperor hosted many hot pot banquets, and the day his son became emperor there was a celebration with more than 1,500 tables of hot pots. Since that time, hot pot has grown in popularity and is a way for families and friends to bond together while eating.
The best part of hot pot is how it can be shared and customized. Usually when you go to a hot pot restaurant your table will order a variety of foods for all to share family-style. Some restaurants will make it very easy to order and give you a menu to write on and check things off. While you wait for your food you can prepare your own dipping sauce – restaurants will offer all kinds of ingredients like soy sauce, peanuts, chives, vinegar, salt, sesame sauce, peanut sauce, and garlic to mix together.
Once the raw ingredients arrive, everyone can select a food they'd like to cook, drop it inside the pot with their chopsticks, then wait for it to finish cooking. Different foods may have different cooking times, but foods usually cook very quickly and will be ready in a few minutes.
Hot pot restaurants can be found all over China! You can search the Chinese characters for hot pot: 火锅 (huǒguō) and find many in every city, or ask a Chinese friend or coworker for help. Many regions of China will also have their own hot pot variety, such as Inner Mongolian hot pot, Cantonese hot pot, and Hainan hot pot.
Hai Di Lao is one popular hot pot restaurant chain. The chain was started in the Sichuan Province and became well-known because of their customer service and fun eating experience – while you wait for a table, servers will provide entertainment such as games, snacks, dances, and manicures. Since opening in 1994, it had spread from China to other locations in Thailand, the US, Vietnam, and South Korea. If you're looking for a place to try hot pot, Hai Di Lao will give you an unforgettable experience!
Hot pot is the perfect eating experience to enjoy with other people! Grab some friends and a cold Tsingtao beer (after the spicy food you'll need it!), and enjoy some Chinese hot pot.