How to Cook Hot Pot at Home Slideshow
January 16, 2013
Thinly sliced meats are ideal for hot pot since they cook quickly and are easy to pick up with a pair of chopsticks. Look for pre-sliced shabu-shabu meats at Asian grocery stores, usually in the frozen section of the meat department. Any type of meat can be used — the sky is the limit. Beef, chicken, pork, or lamb, it's up to you. You can also use seafood if you like — popular choices include shrimp, squid, fish fillets (cut up), and fish balls. Tofu is also a must; just be sure to purchase firm tofu so that it doesn't fall apart as it simmers.
The proportion of vegetables to meat at most restaurants is generally about 2:1 but you can skew it any way you like. Popular choices include chopped Napa cabbage (about 1-inch pieces), shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, Chinese wood ear mushrooms, and sliced carrots. Dried seaweed is also popular.
Udon noodles are a popular choice, but they can be a bit heavy and would preclude serving hot pot with rice (unless you are extremely hungry). Lighter choices include "glass noodles" and green tea noodles.
While some recipes create homemade versions of the popular sauces, such as this Shabu-Shabu Recipe which creates a sesame sauce from scratch, they are all also available as readymade condiments. Look for low-sodium ponzu, bottled peanut sauce, and MSG-free sesame sauce in the soy sauce aisle of Asian grocery stores.
The Set Up
Now that you have all of the components, how do you set it all up? Place a portable gas stove on the table and fill a shallow pot with water. Add some light aromatics — rehydrated dried seaweed is a common choice. Bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, arrange the meat on one platter, and the vegetables and noodles on another. Pour the sauces that you're using into individual small bowls for each person at the table. Get some rice going if you're not having udon noodles.
Lastly, fill a canister large enough to fit a fine-meshed skimmer with some water. This will be used later on to skim any scum off the top of the water as any proteins cook.
When the liquid comes to a boil, you have two choices. Some people like to start with the meat followed by the vegetables so that the vegetables are flavored by the meat. Others prefer the vegetables to retain clean flavors and so do them first. It's really up to you. Noodles finish the meal and always get cooked last.
Ideally, everyone at the table participates in the cooking. As items in the pot finish cooking, they are shaken dry and dipped into the sauce of one's choice and eaten with rice, if desired. Oftentimes though, one person ends up doing all the cooking, so to avoid getting into any disagreements with a pot of boiling water in the center of the table, it might be a good idea to designate a team captain before any cooking starts.