Hot Pot (or similarly Japanese Shabu-Shabu) is actually a fondue. Vegetables, thinly sliced meats and often noodles and/or dumplings, are added to a fondue pot with boiling broth.
Each person sharing the fondue adds their own ingredients to the broth. Food can be rescued by using a small wire basket or just cooked by “swishing” it through the broth with chop sticks.
The broth can either be earthy and savory with the addition of dried seaweed and other spices, or very hot (as evidenced by the numerous dried chiles floating on top).
It is typically served with dipping sauces on the side, such as spicy Sriracha sauce, hot chili oil, ginger soy sauce or a light citrus flavored ponzu sauce. Or, my favorite, a nice hot spicy Chinese hot mustard.
There are restaurants that specialize in Chinese Hot Pot or Shabu-Shabu style eating. But it is possible to make it at home. For this simple version, I’ve simplified the process by making one big soup.
How many of us still have a fondue pot lying around in the pantry? For most of us it is a distant memory and many garage sales ago. If you do though, go ahead and set up the broth in the middle of the table and serve with the uncooked ingredients on the side.
Either way, consider making it festive by serving with some dipping sauces on the side. Although, the soup has an interesting exotic flavor, particularly because of the use of star anise, which mildly numbs the tongue and intensifies the flavor of the soup.
In this recipe I suggest using fresh shrimp and thinly sliced rib-eye steak. But you can also use whatever protein you like, including firm tofu. In restaurants serving Hot Pot you get a list of categories to choose from including a variety of different vegetables and proteins. Try scallops, pea pods or thinly sliced chicken breast. Experiment and find your favorite!