- Bring the broths to a boil. Then take it down to a simmer and you’re ready to dunk.
- Start by adding whatever takes the longest to cook (hardy veg, mushrooms) or will impart more flavor (like meats, which will make a meat broth even meatier). A word to the wise: Be prepared when adding flavor sponges (tofu, Napa cabbage) to spicy broths because they absorb heat and can become overwhelming to eat.
- Then it’s a free for all. You’ve got all the intel on how long everything should hang out in the broth, so cook whatever you want at whatever pace. Some hot pot enthusiasts might disagree with this approach, proposing that you start with meat, then veg, then starches, but Sze believes that “the whole point of hot pot is to experience different flavors and textures throughout your meal, and to have strict rules defeats the purpose.” Instead, he pays close attention to each item added in order to ensure perfect cooking.
- And remember: Feed your friends. “There is absolute accountability and responsibility at the hot pot table,” Sze explains. If you see the short ribs hit the perfect temp or the taro about to reach its crumbling point, scoop it up and drop it off at a dining companion’s bowl. “This kind of etiquette is part of the communal experience of eating hot pot.”
Back to the top.
Sze believes the broth is the only flavoring agent you need, but for some folks, condiments are essential to the meal. Many hot pot restaurants have a salad bar-esque set-up (I create a similar buffet at home!), where you can build your own bowl of chopped aromatics (scallions, garlic, cilantro), sauces (soy, peanut, sesame), vinegar, oils, and seasonings (sacha, chile flakes) to stir together and plunge your broth-cooked ingredients into before eating. So if you live to dip and drizzle, here are a few to try:
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For a much-needed hit of acid, Sze likes this inky vinegar. He opts for Eastlake Shanxi (more savory) or Fly By Jing (slightly sweeter).
Also known as barbecue sauce, this aromatic seafood paste is a staple in barbecue as well as soup. Sze’s go-to brand is Bull Head from Taiwan.
Sze likes to thin it out with soy sauce, black vinegar, and water for a dipping sauce with a balanced bite. Wang Zhihe is a fave, but tahini works in a pinch.
Mince these bad boys and sprinkle them into whatever condiments you’re using to add brightness. “Scallion and cilantro provide freshness and counteract the fats in the meat and sesame paste, while garlic can punch through the heavier flavors,” Sze says.
A Final Word From the Hot Pot Nerds:
“Be adventurous,” Sze says. “If you live in Germany, put in some sausages. If it’s springtime, add fiddlehead ferns. This spread reflects my preference for hot pot; it’s not the universally accepted way to do it. Whatever you like, try it. Hot pot is a blank canvas, and you can go in so many different directions.”
In other words, you got this.