Europeans call it fondue, we call it Hot Pot. In fact, it is ‘For-Wor’ in Cantonese and ‘Hor-Guo’ in Mandarin. For or Hor, it means fire. Wor or Guo, it refers to the pot on top of the fire.
In the old days, the fire was lit using charcoals and a simple stand made of stone, on it stood a large clay pot of water or soup used as the cooking devise throughout the meal. Hot pot, often enjoyed in cold weather, was a mean of getting warm. Meat, roots and vegetables were the main ingredients, yet it’s nothing really extravagant.
But these days, we use mobile butane stove and a stainless steel pot divided into two compartments known as ‘yingyang pot’, pus a tableful of food! Some insist having a good soup stock; so different soup bases are offered when you eat out: spicy hot, chicken broth, pork soup, seafood stock, Szechuan chili pot, even congee. Others find water with few slices of ginger and stalks of scallions good enough. It’s what goes in that matter!
What also matters is the condiments. Crack an egg, whip it with satay/chili/soy sauce, they say this egg swirl helps cool down the cooked food to edible temperature so you won’t burn your tongue. Mix hoisin with sriracha, it’s great with sliced meat. Add some sizzling oil to a bowl of chopped fresh chili pepper, then pour in soy sauce. Mix sesame oil & Maggi sauce;
Dilute oyster sauce by adding water and sugar…Hey, you can even use wasabe, tobasco or dashi!
Since this is a ‘you-cook’ style repast, anything that needs cooking goes. So be creative, throw in fresh crab pieces, fish chunks, lotus roots, taro roots, wild mushrooms, chicken wings, meatballs, wontons, dumplings, udons, lots of greens and yes, tofu!
Hot pot tools & tips:
-There are special sections selling hotpot ingredients in most Asian supermarkets, including already packages of sliced meat and assorted meat and seafood balls.
-Make your own stock with turkey drumsticks or necks which have less fat content. Just add in few slices of ginger (skin on) and chunks of daikon which will be ready to eat at hotpot time.
-Make sure there are extra butane gas tubes.
-Use wooden chopsticks for cooking.
-Small individual drainer is good for scooping but is optional.
-Fast cook watercress, Chinese lettuce, siu-choy and baby bak-choi are popular hotpot vegetables.
-Do not let cooked food ‘swimming’ in the soup, scoop them up once they’re ready to be enjoyed.