Taiwanese hot pot

When I think about Taiwanese hot pot, I think about long and leisurely lunch dates with my friend Nicole back when we were both teaching English in Taiwan. On the hottest summer days, we loved retreating into the frigid interior of our favorite hot pot franchise to steam our faces over deep pots of boiling broth.

Nicole would always start nibbling at the raw cabbage before her food was ready. And no matter how many times we had hot pot, she’d always gasp at how delicious the dipping sauce was: “Anything would taste good in this sauce. This is the reason people eat hot pot, this sauce. This sauce is addictive!”

At the restaurant, we each had our own pots and could make the soup to suit our tastes. I never used the raw egg that came on the platter, but she would always break it into the soup at the end and make a kind of egg drop soup with her noodles.

When I moved back to the US, I missed Taiwanese hot pot and my version of the salty, spicy dipping sauce. I decided to make it at home for my friends, the first time I’d ever made Taiwanese hot pot myself. I was happy that all the ingredients I recognized were easy to find at the local Asian grocery store, from the Taiwanese barbecue sauce called shacha to the frozen meatballs, fishballs, tofu, and fish-paste shapes that I had been missing.

The “frozen processed food combo” and the “frozen hot pot combo” I got from the Asian store are easy to add to Taiwanese hot pot at home

– learn
When I invite friends over for Taiwanese hot pot, I find its best to make two buffets: all the raw ingredients are plated and put on the table around the pot in the middle, and all the dipping sauce ingredients are lined up on the counter so there is more room on the table.

Taiwanese hot pot soup recipe

Soup

  • 2 quarts chicken broth or 2 quarts vegetable broth

Proteins

Choose as many as you like, but aim to have at least 4 ounces per guest.

  • pork, sliced thin
  • beef, sliced thin
  • shrimp
  • scallops
  • squid
  • imitation crab
  • fish (firm varieties like flounder, haddock, or halibut are recommended)
  • various forms of tofu (extra firm, already fried, or pressed into interesting shapes)
  • fish-paste shapes
  • meatballs from the Asian market
  • fishballs from the Asian market
  • dumplings (for boiling)

Vegetables

Choose as many or as few as you like.

  • cabbage, cored and quartered
  • straw mushrooms or shiitake mushroom caps
  • tomatos, quartered
  • corn on the cob, sliced in pieces about 1-inch thick
  • carrots, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • daikon radish, cut into small cubes
  • taro, cut into small cubes
  • baby bok choy

Dipping sauce

Let your guests assemble their own dipping sauce with any combination of these ingredients.

  • Shacha sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Black vinegar
  • Tahini paste
  • Sugar
  • Peanuts, smashed
  • Green onions, sliced
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Garlic, minced
  • Hot peppers, minced
  • Rice vinegar
  • Raw eggs (optional)
  • Carbohydrate

Serve with bowls of steamed short grain white or brown rice.
You may also want to add uncooked egg noodles or rice cakes to the broth at the end.

Directions

  • Plate your proteins and vegetables and lay them out on the table. Lay out the dipping sauce ingredients wherever you have room.
  • Heat the broth until it’s boiling, either on the stove or in an electric hot pot. (It will take a lot longer to get to boiling on a burner or hot plate.)
  • Make your own dipping sauce. Any self-respecting Taiwanese hot pot dipping sauce will start with a generous glob of shacha, but after that, the ingredients are up to you. I usually add them all. I might be addicted to black vinegar.
  • When the soup is simmering in the middle of the table and all your guests are seated with their bowls of did-it-themselves dipping sauce, start adding the raw ingredients into the pot with your chopsticks or wire mesh skimmers.
  • First add the corn, carrots, and other ingredients that will take a long time to cook. Corn and carrots also add a sweetness to the broth that will make for a more richly flavored soup at the end.
  • Don’t add too many raw items all at once or hot pot will get cold and will take a long time to cook.
  • Leafy greens will cook very quickly; don’t leave them in too long.
  • You can tell the shrimp is done when they turn pink all over and they’re no longer translucent. They don’t take very long to cook.
  • The meat should be sliced so thinly that it doesn’t take more than a minute to cook. Cook it to your desired level of doneness, but it’s generally not a good idea to just let it sit and boil for very long as it will get tough. Cooking some meat in the beginning will add more flavor to the broth.
  • Use your chopsticks or the wire skimmers to retrieve pieces of food as they are done cooking. Dip them in the sauce and eat them, with or without some rice.

Add more broth to the pot as needed.

  • Keep some broth warm on the stove so it doesn’t cool down the hot pot on the table when you add more.
  • When everyone’s had their fill of the meat and vegetables, add the uncooked noodles or rice cakes to the remaining broth.
  • Guests can ladle out a bowlful of soup to drink, or serve themselves the noodles or rice cakes when they are finished for a decisive end to a long meal.