Hot pot

Hot pot or hotpot (simplified Chinese: 火锅; traditional Chinese: 火鍋; pinyin: huǒguō; lit. 'fire pot'), also known as soup-food or steamboat. A heat source on the dining table keeps a pot of soup stock simmering, and a variety of Chinese foodstuffs and ingredients are served beside the pot for the diners to put into the hot stock.[1]

Hot pot
An exquisite presentation of raw foods ready to be cooked in a simmering broth
CourseMain dishes
Place of originChina
Region or stateEast Asia and Southeast Asia
Main ingredientsMeat, vegetables, mushrooms, dumplings, seafood, broth
Hot pot
Traditional Chinese火鍋
Simplified Chinese火锅
Literal meaning"fire pot"
Cantonese name
Traditional Chinese打邊爐 or 打甂爐
Simplified Chinese打边炉 or 打甂炉


Hot pot is a flavorful broth traditionally served inside a large metal pot. The broth is brought to a boil and left simmering for the duration of the meal. Raw ingredients, such as meat and vegetables, are placed into the simmering broth and thus cooked. The cooked pieces are dipped into dipping sauces for additional flavor. Hot pot is considered a main course and is usually served without rice or noodles on the side. Hot pots can be prepared and eaten at home or in a restaurant.

Typical hot pot ingredients include thinly sliced meat, leaf vegetables, mushrooms, vermicelli, sliced potatoes, bean products, egg dumplings, tofu, and seafood. Raw ingredients are pre-sliced into thin sections that will cook quickly and consistently in the simmering broth, which is maintained at a gentle boiling temperature. Most raw foods can be cooked in a hot pot, although they may have different cooking times, and must be immersed in the soup and then removed accordingly.

Hot pot with two flavors

At the conclusion of the meal, the broth has acquired many flavors from the added ingredients, and may be served to the diners after turning off the cooking heat source.


The tripods of Zhou dynasty may be the earliest prototypes of the hot pot. Diners among the nobility each had a personal pot made of bronze, and called ran lu (燃炉/燃爐). The main part of ran lu was a small stove with a small pot above burning charcoal. Later, a hot pot made with copper was created during the "Three Kingdoms period" (200–280 AD), which is generally acknowledged as the origin of the hot pot. During the Qing dynasty, hot pot became popular among the emperors. In particular, the Qianlong Emperor was very fond of hot pot and would eat it for almost every meal. Later, the Jiaqing Emperor also had a banquet with 1,550 hot pots at his coronation. Empress Dowager Cixi was also known to have enjoyed hot pot, especially in the winter months.

Since the 1990s, as the number of Chinese immigrants entering the United States has grown significantly, Chinese food has also spread to the United States, and hot pot has also moved to the forefront of the global culinary scene.[2]

Common ingredients

Regional variations

Mainland China

A Sichuan-style double hot pot with sour suan cai and spicy mala broths
Instant-boiled mutton in Beijing

Chinese hot pots are often divided into "Southern style" and "Northern style", paralleling the cultural regions of China. Although there are wide regional variations, in general, Southern styles tend to have spicy broths, complex dipping sauces and are heavier on seafood, vegetables and mushrooms, while Northern styles are simpler and focus more on the meat, particularly mutton.[3]

According to research, 67 different spices and condiments are commonly used in traditional Chinese hotpot, involving 82 plant species of 50 genera in 26 families.[4]

Modern eateries offer a partitioned pot with differently-flavored broths in each section. More traditional or older establishments often serve a fragrant, mild broth in a large brass vessel heated by burning coals in a central chimney. The broth is simmered in a deep, donut-shaped bowl surrounding the chimney.

Southern styles

One of the most famous Southern variations is the Chongqing hot pot (Chinese: 重庆火锅), which uses mala seasoning flavored with chilli peppers and Sichuan pepper for a spicy and numbing flavor. Chongqing hotpots often feature a wide variety of different meats and ingredients, and offer many sauces and condiments to flavor the meat. The typical dipping sauce contains sesame oil and is mixed with crushed fresh garlic and chopped spring onions. Due to the high humidity in the region, local people eat spicy food to remove the moisture from their bodies.[5]

Sichuan also has a number of "dry" hot pots such as mala xiangguo (Chinese: 麻辣香锅), which are similar to mala hot pot in ingredients and seasoning, but stir-fry them instead of cooking in broth.[6]

In neighbouring Yunnan, although spicy broths are equally popular, there is another predominant type of hot pot that is made with various wild or farmed mushrooms. It is called the Wild Mushroom hot pot (Chinese: 野生菌火锅). Due to the vast forests and abundant natural resources in Yunnan, people can find a wide variety of edible mushrooms. The easily accessible and fresh mushroom resources lead to the high popularity of the Wild Mushroom hot pot. The big difference between the mushroom hot pot and the spicy hot pot is that the former omits strong spice and chili, and the latter preserves the original flavor of the mushrooms. The mushroom hot pot is also seasonal, depending on the availability of local mushrooms.

A Cantonese variation includes mixing a raw egg with the condiments to reduce the amount of "heat" absorbed by the food, thereby reducing the likelihood of a sore throat after the steamboat meal, according to Chinese herbalist theories.

In Hainan cuisine hot pot is generally served in small woks with a prepared broth containing pieces of meat. At the time of serving, the meat is not fully cooked, and approximately fifteen minutes are required before it is ready to eat. Items supplied to be cooked in this type of hot pot include mushrooms, thinly-shaved beef or goat meat, lettuce, and other green vegetables. This dish varies somewhat in different parts of the province. Coconut milk and juice is commonly added into the hot pot.

In Jiangsu and Zhejiang cuisine, chrysanthemum flowers are cooked in the broth to give it a floral essence.

Northern styles

Instant-boiled mutton (Chinese: 涮羊肉; pinyin: Shuàn Yángròu) could be viewed as representative of "northern style hot pot", which focus on the main ingredients rather than the soup base. Water is used as the main ingredient of the hotpot instead of the flavored broth.

The Manchu hot pot (Chinese: 東北酸菜火鍋) uses plenty of suan cai (Chinese sauerkraut) (Chinese: 酸菜; pinyin: suān cài) to make the broth sour.

In Hubei cuisine, hot pot is normally prepared with hot spices and Sichuan pepper. Items supplied to be cooked in this broth include mushrooms, thinly-shaved beef or lamb, lettuce, and various other green vegetables.


In Taiwanese cuisine, it is very common to eat hotpot food with a dipping sauce consisting of shacha sauce and raw egg yolk with stir-fried beef. (沙茶牛肉炉). One of the most authentic hotpot restaurants that locals widely praise is a hotpot restaurant called “Xiao Haozhou's sha-cha beef hot pot.” This restaurant was founded in 1949 by a man named Musheng Chen. The popularity of this hot pot restaurant and its unique secret recipe of sha-cha sauce has become one of the iconic sha-cha sauce brands in Taiwanese cuisine nowadays.[7] Initially, this hotpot is only assorted with a light broth and dip with sha-cha source. Influenced by Japanese cuisine, the sha-cha source is now commonly served with raw egg yolk.[8]

The Taiwanese also developed their Taiwanese style of chili hotpot originated from the Sichuan chili hotpot style. In the Taiwanese style of chili hotpot, people who barely tolerate spicy favor are included. Rather than using animal offal as the main ingredient, the Taiwanese style of chili hotpot uses seafood and beef as their main ingredient due to Taiwan's location near the sea.[8]

In Taiwan, people usually have a hotpot meal during the Chinese Lunar New Year's Eve. Different from the usual days of cooking hotpots with whatever ingredients they like, the Taiwanese follow the principles of Wu-Xing (the five-element principle) when cooking the Lunar year Taiwan hotpot. They believe that by following the current principle of these five elements, then the food they eat can gain a “mutual generation sequence” (xiangsheng 相生) that is beneficial to the ones that eat them. In Taiwanese hotpot, these five elements are represented with the food in five colors: white, black, yellow, red, and green. Therefore, the five indispensable foods are

  • stew turnip, which represents white;
  • mushroom, which represents black;
  • burdock or pumpkin, which represents yellow;
  • carrot or tomato, which represents red and reddish leaves, which represent green.

Moreover, locals believe that the more color there are shown in a hotpot, the more different nutrients they will gain from eating it. The reason why it is so crucial for Taiwanese people to consume hot pot during the Lunar year is that hot pot not only represents rich nutrition and blessings for family health, but it also represents family reunion and harmony.[9]


In Japan, hot pots are known as nabemono. There are many variations, including sukiyaki, yosenabe, shabu-shabu, oden, and chankonabe.


There are two main Korean style hotpot, Jeongol (전골) and Budae Jjigae (부대찌개). Both hotpot have similar spicy broth, loaded with Kimchi, spam, sausages, vegetables and noodles.


In Cambodian cuisine, hot pot is called yao hon (យ៉ាវហន), though some regions call it chhnang pleurng (ឆ្នាំងភ្លើង), which literally translates to "pot fire". It is usually eaten during celebrations or family gatherings. Just like the Chinese version, Cambodian hot pot consist of similar ingredients although the dish differs in that coconut milk is used as the base of the soup. Another variation of the dish is called "buttered yao hon" or "buttered chhnang pleurng"; the same ingredients are used but are instead cooked on a flat grill pan where butter is used as the base (this is similar to Korean barbecue). An herb sauce is usually added to "buttered yao hon", since the ingredients are not flavored by immersion in a broth.[10]


In Philippine cuisine, hotpot is commonly served by Chinese specialty restaurants, and in some all-you-can-eat buffets. The terms shabu-shabu and "hotpot" are also used interchangeably for this style of food preparation.[11] In Cebu City, a specialty restaurant offers a "hot pot" that is literally a huge ceramic pot filled with cooked rice, choice of beef, pork, or chicken slices, special sauce, and choice vegetables such as broccoli, carrot, shallot, ginger, pechay, kangkong leaves, spices, and some slices of hard-boiled eggs on top; it is more similar to kamameshi than the namesake.


Thai suki, Thai hot pot preparation

In Thai cuisine, hotpot is called Thai suki, although it is quite different from the Japanese shabu-shabu variation called sukiyaki. Originally a Chinese-style hot pot, the number of ingredients to choose from was greatly increased and a Thai-style dipping sauce with chili sauce, chilli, lime, and coriander leaves was added. Another variation is mu kratha, the Thai hot pot which originated from Korean barbecue combined with Thai suki. In the Northeast region, a similar style of cooking called chim chum where thinly sliced meat is cooked in clay pots on charcoal stove is also popular. Tom Yum is a common soup base for Thai hot pot.


Soup set in Vietnam, hot pot style

In Vietnamese cuisine, a hot pot is called lẩu or cù lao. There are many styles of lẩu ranging from seafood lẩu hải sản, canh chua soup-base (lẩu canh chua) or salted fish hot pot (lẩu mắm).


In Swiss cuisine, a variation of the traditional Chinese hot pot locally called fondue chinoise (lit. "Chinese fondue") is a popular Christmas meal. Various types of meat, fish and vegetables are boiled in a shared pot of broth. Various sauces and pickled condiments are provided on the side. After all the diners have finished cooking, they eat the now well-flavored broth often combined with thin noodles.[12]

Similar dishes

A hot pot restaurant in Johor, Malaysia

See also


  1. Song, Cen; Zheng, Li; Shan, Xiaojun (Gene) (2022-11-03). "An analysis of public opinions regarding Internet-famous food: a 2016–2019 case study on Dianping". British Food Journal. 124 (12): 4462–4476. doi:10.1108/BFJ-05-2021-0510. ISSN 0007-070X. S2CID 246552798.
  2. McDougall, James I. (2021-01-02). "Globalization of Sichuan hot pot in the "new era"". Asian Anthropology. 20 (1): 77–92. doi:10.1080/1683478X.2020.1779970. ISSN 1683-478X. S2CID 225684185.
  3. "How hotpot's history boiled over into a national controversy". 15 September 2018.
  4. Wu, Menghua; Guo, Ping; Tsui, Sze Wai; Chen, Hubiao; Zhao, Zhongzhen (2012). "An ethnobotanical survey of medicinal spices used in Chinese hotpot". Food Research International. 48 (1): 226–232. doi:10.1016/j.foodres.2012.03.010.
  5. "The Significant Visual Symbols Design, Logo Design Study of Chong Qing Hot Pot Brand"
  6. "The farm boy who became owner of one of Singapore's largest mala xiang guo chains".
  7. Tseng, Lin-Yi (2018-09-03). "An accidental journey: sha-cha sauce and beef consumption in Tainan since 1949". Social Transformations in Chinese Societies. 14 (2): 107–116. doi:10.1108/STICS-04-2018-0008. ISSN 1871-2673. S2CID 81910262.
  8. Chen, Yu-Chen; Fong, Ya-San; Li, Yi-He; Ma, Min-Yuan (2010). Research of Taiwanese chili hot pot culture – Attractiveness and consumers (PDF). International conference on kansei engineering and emotion research 2010. p. 2. 272. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2023-01-03.
  9. "Cantonese Cuisine (Yue-cai) in Taiwan and Taiwanese Cuisine (Tai-cai) in Hong Kong", Globalization of Chinese Food, Routledge, pp. 106–119, 2012-11-12, doi:10.4324/9780203060346-16, ISBN 9780203060346, retrieved 2022-10-25
  10. Srey, Kim. "Mami-Eggroll: "Yow Hon" for Two".
  11. "Make your own sauces for your hot pot indulgence". 2015-09-23.
  12. "Fleischfondue richtig genießen : so isst man richtig das Fleischfondue". 22 December 2017.

Further reading

  • Klein, E.F.; Graves, S.A. (February 1974). "'Hot Pot' Tracheitis". Chest. 65 (2): 225–226. doi:10.1378/chest.65.2.225. PMID 4521026.
  • Guo, Qiaozhen; Zhang, Jing; Zhao, Shan; Shao, Bing (26 July 2012). "Determination of Five Alkaloids of Pericarpium Papaveris in Hot Pot Broth Using Ultra-Performance Liquid Chromatography Coupled to Triple Quadruple Mass Spectrometry". Food Analytical Methods. 6 (2): 698–704. doi:10.1007/s12161-012-9479-2. S2CID 98483241.
  • Newman, Jacqueline M. (May 2009). "China's Dongbei Cuisine". Gastronomica. 9 (2): 82–86. doi:10.1525/gfc.2009.9.2.82.
  • Oum, Young Rae (23 January 2007). "Authenticity and representation: cuisines and identities in Korean-American diaspora". Postcolonial Studies. 8 (1): 109–125. doi:10.1080/13688790500134380. S2CID 145365993.
  • Slack, Susan Fuller (2001). "Chinese Hot Pots". Fondues and Hot Pots. Penguin. pp. 71–88. ISBN 978-1-55788-369-8.
  • Kimoto-Kahn, Amy (2019). "Anatomy of a Hot Pot". Simply Hot Pots: A Complete Course in Japanese Nabemono and Other Asian One-Pot Meals. Race Point Publishing. pp. 19–23. ISBN 978-1-63106-567-5.
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