The traditional Chinese hot pot has brought people together for more than a millennium, and continues to evolve even today in cities across Asia.
If you’ve ever been to China, chances are you will have tried hot pot, a traditional dish in which ingredients such as sliced meats, vegetables, and seafood are submerged in a cauldron of simmering broth placed at the centre of the table.
While the history of hot pot is a point of contention, legend has it that the dish originated in Mongolia over 1,000 years ago, when horsemen riding across the steppe into China used their helmets to cook meat stews over open fires. Subsequently, hot pot spread across China, with different parts of the country cooking up their own regional variations. The ancient dish is still highly popular today, with hotpot restaurants – some traditional, others contemporary – popping up in cities across Asia.
Hot pot may have evolved over the years, but the spirit of the dish remains intact. Even today, a single pot is typically shared among several diners – as are the platters of ingredients arranged around it. Plus, as the ingredients are cooked in small batches, a hot pot meal can last up to several hours, making it the perfect catalyst for social interaction.
At its core, hot pot is an inherently communal dining experience, where friends and family gather around the same table to share food, stories and ultimately, age-old culinary traditions.
Where to try
Xiao Tian E, Chongqing
When in Chongqing, the infamous mala (literally “numbingly spicy”) hotpot is a must-try. Sweat it out at Xiao Tian E, where you’ll be dunking everything from beef strips to fried tofu into a tongue-numbing broth littered with peppercorns.
8 Jianxin N Rd, Jiangbei
Hai Di Lao, Singapore
This Chinese institution has several branches across the city. Take your pick from a range of soup bases, from Sichuan mala to Singapore-style laksa (spicy, coconut milk-based noodle soup).
The Drunken Pot, Hong Kong
The traditional hotpot gets a modern makeover at this hip restaurant. The soup bases here are as creative as they come – squid ink, for example, or sake and coconut.
8 Observatory Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui