The Chinese Hotpot (Huo Guo)

The Chinese Hotpot (Huo Guo)

The hotpot is an incredibly popular delicacy in China. Most cities have their own hotpots. Sichuan (Chongqing), Cantonese and Mongolian (Beijing) hotpots are the most popular.

The hotpot became popular during the Qing Dynasty. Even more, it diversified during the Qing and Ming dynasties.

The Chinese mainly had hotpot during winter to warm up their bodies. However, due to its growing popularity, people enjoy a hotpot delicacy any day, any time.


What is a hotpot?

  • A hotpot is a pot filled with broth and oil. Most broths come from chicken, goat or cow bones. Oil and spices improve the taste of the broth that continues to boil all through. The spice levels vary between mild and extremely spicy.
  • Raw ingredients are usually placed beside the boiling broth. You will add and cook what you like to eat. Raw ingredients include meatballs, beef slices, lamb slices, seafood as well as a variety of vegetables. Eggs and dumplings are useful additions too. Once the food is well cooked, you dip it into your bowl of sauce.


History of the hotpot

  • The hotpot originated from Mongolia in the 10th and 11th century. Originally, diners used mutton and horse meat to make broth as well as meat slices. Moreover, the broth was not spicy.
  • Subsequently, the hotpot spread throughout China, having made several improvements. 
  • Eventually, each region developed its distinct variations that we see to date.


How to eat a hotpot

  • Chinese hotpot flavours vary from region. Conversely, they all have the same dining traditions. They serve in a roundtable setting with the pot in the middle and all raw ingredients around it. 
  • Begin by dipping foods that take a bit longer to cook. These include meatballs and large cubed pieces of meat.
  • Follow with the thinly sliced lean meats and vegetables. 
  • Ensure that all food is properly cooked before you eat it.
  • Once the food is ready to dip into your sauce and enjoy!

Rules to observe when having hotpot

  • A hotpot is a communal meal. When having a communal meal, it is good to observe proper table manners. To begin with, take turns. Let others have a chance to cook their food in the hotpot. 
  • Secondly, only eat what you have put in the pot. It would be unfair to eat what others have put for themselves. 
  • Additionally, do not mix the spicy and non-spicy sections of the broth pot. Avoid cross dunking because a mild broth can get extremely spicy in a short time.  Observe hygiene. Drop your contents with a hot pot spoon and fetch them out using the same. 
  • Finally, keep checking on your food to prevent it from overcooking.


Reasons why Chinese love eating hotpot

  • The Chinese enjoy having their hotpot. First of all, they take the hotpot as a form of socialization. They gather together to enjoy a hearty meal, chat away and have fun. All this while they eat and drink over a hotpot meal.
  • Likewise, hotpot has a myriad of health benefits. Food gets cooked by boiling.
  • Scientists consider boiled food more nutritious than fried food, as such, all nutrients release and infuse into the broth and consequently transferred into the body.
  • Similarly, a hotpot improves blood circulation and warms the body up.
  • Also, ingredients used in a hotpot alleviate some pains, diseases and infections including sinuses.


Popular hotpots in China

Chongqing/Sichuan hotpot

  • Chongqing is the cradle of hotpot. Chongqing hotpot is the original hotpot of China. It is from this hotpot that other types diversified. This hotpot is extremely spicy and has a high caloric value. It is very hot and becomes mouth-numbing as they use hot Sichuan pepper.
  • Chongqing hotpot developed as a result of dock workers who were seeking a source of warmth. The broth gets prepared from oil and butter. Hot spices are then added. These include hot pepper, cumin seeds, ginger, garlic, and star anise. Vegetables such as potatoes, mushrooms, and tofu are sometimes added. Offals and fish may be part of the ingredients too.

Mongolian/Beijing hotpot

  • As the name suggests, this hotpot is popular in the northern parts of China. The broth is aromatic. Goji berries and onions get added to it.
  • It is a liberal hotpot and you may use the ingredients you like.
  • The Mongolian hotpot uses a unique pot. It has a flat base, with a chimney-like top to let out steam from the boiling broth.

Cantonese hotpot

  • This hotpot is dominant in Southern China especially in Canton (Guangzhou). Owing to the location of Canton, ingredients used are mainly seafood and fish.
  • The broth gets prepares using chicken soup or sea turtle soup. Red dates, goji berries, squids, fish and oysters are usually added too.