There seems to be some confusion, so let me clear it up: When Europeans say "fondue chinoise", they mean broth fondue (or at least not-cheese, not-chocolate, and not-oil fondues). "Chinese fondue" means hot pot.
Unless you're French. I bet if a French person who tried hot pot is telling her friends about her meal, she calls it fondue chinoise, but then she has to explain how it's not what they are thinking.
Hot pot and fondue chinoise are similar: for both, diners take raw ingredients, cook them in hot broth, dip them in different sauces, and eat them. However, when you're having hot pot, you basically add handfuls of raw meat and vegetables to the boiling broth and fish them out piece by piece with chopsticks. With fondue chinoise, you still have to mind your manners and use a fondue fork to keep hold of your own raw bits.
Check out my broth fondue page.
Of course, the flavors are also different. Though there are countless variations of broth recipes for both hot pot and fondue chinoise, the ingredients tend to fit a certain profile. Hot pot broth might be flavored with Shaoxing wine, lemongrass, or super spicy Sichuan peppers. Fondue chinoise recipes may call for thyme, bay leaves, or red wine. Hot pot dipping sauces are based on gritty, salty shacha sauce, sesame paste, or lime juice, while fondue chinoise dipping sauces are often based on mayonnaise, sour cream, or soft cheeses.
Check out my fondue dipping sauces page for more ideas.
So what's a Tabletop Cook to do? I decided to go with what was essentially a Thai-style fondue chinoise recipe. Its a broth-based fondue, but more Asian than Western.
However, it should be served and prepared in a fondue pot and eaten like a European fondue, so each guest will have his or her own fondue fork and maintain sovereignty over his or her pieces of food. It's the best of both delicious worlds.
The recipe suggested serving this fondue with jasmine rice and papaya salad, which I did. However, I got the papaya salad as takeout from our local Thai restaurant to save time on prep, and it worked out well.
We used our electric fondue pot for this recipe. If you are using a fondue pot heated by a gel or alcohol burner, you'll have to cook the broth on the stove before adding it to the fondue pot. You cannot make this fondue in a ceramic pot lit by a tealight because it won't get hot enough.
And if you're planning on serving wine with this dish, something white, acidic, and a little sweet, like a semi-sweet Riesling, is a conventional favorite.
Note: Coconut milk can be used a substitute for coconut cream, but do not use cream of coconut. That’s a very different, very sweet product. If you can't find coconut cream at your local grocery or Asian store, you can buy it online.
Mix the ingredients for the marinade in a large bowl or casserole dish. Add the meat, chicken, shrimp, or dippers of your choice to the marinade and allow them to chill in the fridge for at least an hour before dinner.
Mix the chicken broth, coconut milk, ginger, lemongrass, and soy sauce in an electric fondue pot and cook over medium heat. Add julienned vegetables and cook over medium-high heat for three minutes, until broth is gently boiling and vegetables soften. Stir in the spices. Lower the heat to medium and get ready for the fondue party!
Using the fondue forks, spear and cook each piece of meat in the broth. Eat it with rice and papaya salad.
If this were a conventional Chinese hot pot meal, you would drink the soup afterward. We didn't eat the vegetables at the end of the meal because we were so full, but I imagine if you ladle the broth and vegetables over the rice, it would be a delicious grand finale.
Or check our full recipe index for even more ideas!
Some of my favorite online stores might have just what you need for your next tabletop meal!
Asian Food Grocer has a great selection of essential ingredients and many hard-to-find items.
Cilantro Cook Shop has a great selection of quality raclette and fondue sets.
For The Gourmet has an amazing selection of cheeses and chocolates.
Sephra specializes in chocolate, caramel and fruit fondues... and fountains.