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What Are The Origins of Hotpot?

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The writer lives life by the saying of "Live to eat" and one particular interest he has is to know where his favorite food i eat comes from.

Cartoon image of a family enjoying hotpot during Chinese New Year.

Cartoon image of a family enjoying hotpot during Chinese New Year.

Where and when was Hotpot created?

History

The creation of Hotpot as a meal is highly debated by everyone and even the scholars, some say it was created by Mongolian horsemen who travelled to China,

some say it was created in the Great Zhou Dynasty and some say it was created in the great Jin Dynasty.

However, historians can agree that there are traces of hotpot's origins in Mongolian history and agree that hotpot was popularized during the rule of the Jin Dynasty.

Regardless who created it, the more recent information we can get is, hotpot originated in Chongqing, a municipality in China.

Hotpot was said to have originated from this part of China at least since 300 A.D. and has been the traditional food of the Chongqing people.

Hotpot's survival throughout the years

Hotpot is a pretty versatile dish to have, Royals of ancient China prefer this dish to be served especially during gatherings, peasants during ancient China enjoyed the dish too especially during festive seasons like Chinese New Year.

Since then, Hotpot has survived many years, many dynasties and it has witnessed many changes in China. Oh, before i forget, the translation for hotpot is "火锅" (pinyin: Huo Guo) and in English, its "Fire Pot". Reason behind the name is because of the heat of the pot which have it a simplified name of Hotpot.

Why do the Chinese love eating hotpot?

A group of people having hotpot

A group of people having hotpot

First things first, as read above, Hotpot is a dish that has went through so many centuries of humanity,

Hotpot spread throughout China in the great Qing Dynasty during the 17th century and it has became a tradition for every Chinese family to eat hotpot during winter and later, on Chinese New Year Eve.

Besides all the history, hotpot is seen by the Chinese as a healthy way of eating and a great way to socialize with everyone on the table.

On the eve of Chinese New Year, it's a tradition where family members return home for what's called, a reunion dinner, hence why hotpot is commonly served during Chinese New Year Eve.

One of the best things you can do in a hotpot is to dump everything you love in and if you don't feel satisfied, just add more, personally, i am a dumper aka a person who dumps lots of food in the pot.

There's no rules on what you can or can not put in a hotpot, it's all based on one's own preference. In Chinese cuisine, there is a belief where the more variety, the better the meal will be.


What goes into a hotpot meal?

Some of the Ingredients for hotpot and the broths.

Some of the Ingredients for hotpot and the broths.

Broths

Broths are an essential ingredient to hotpot, the better the broth, the more flavor your ingredients will be getting and the happier your taste buds will be. Here are the types of broth commonly used in hotpot:

  • Sichuan ma la broth

"Ma" means numbing and "La" means spicy, basically in a literal translation, Ma La is numbing spicy. This soup is great when it comes to the cold winter as it really cools you down, but eat at your own expense.

  • Pork Bone Broth

Pork Bone Soup is commonly simmered for a long time, usually 6-12 hours to extract all that porky flavor out, this soup is often the basic option in a hotpot meal.


  • Meat Bone Broth (Eg, Chicken, mutton or beef bones)

As the popularity of hotpot rises in some Majority Muslim Countries, halal meats are being used as the base of a hotpot soup using the long boil technique as well.


  • Tomato Broth

As the name says, tomato soup has a sour flavor which according to Chinese traditional sayings, stimulate the taste buds and gives you a better appetite. Some places make a slightly spicy version as well.


  • Herbal Broth

Herbal Soup commonly uses the bone broth but mixed with many Chinese traditional herbs to give it a "power-up" to the hotpot broth. It's also a basic broth for a hotpot meal.

Ingredients


Meat & Seafood

It really depends on the preferences of a family, most of the time, sliced meats are used in hotpot because it cooks faster. The meats commonly used are, Sliced Beef, Sliced Pork, Sliced Lamb and Sliced Chicken. Fish slices and shellfish is commonly used as a seafood option with the latter giving the broth a "sweeter" taste.


Vegetables

Any vegetable will do, however, Spinach, Lettuce, Romaine Lettuce, wood ear and pumpkin are the "Must have" in a hotpot meal, you can't have a hotpot with no vegetables.


Processed ingredients

This is slightly out of tradition, but in recent years, processed ingredients such as seafood tofu, spam and fish balls are added into hotpot. In all honesty, they are good with hotpot and there isn't a rule saying you can't add something new to the pot.

In recent years

Popular hotpot chain, Hai Di Lao, in Penang, Malaysia.

Popular hotpot chain, Hai Di Lao, in Penang, Malaysia.


Hotpot's popularity to the world

Just like some of the things we enjoy in life, for instance, travelling, hotpot has a Oneworld Alliance membership and has travelled to most parts of the world through the Chinese communities there.

In Malaysia, similar to the Chinese people in the Mainland, Malaysian Chinese has the tradition of having hotpot on the eve of Chinese New Year as well, however, it isn't just the Chinese enjoying hotpot all the time, almost everyone in the country love hotpot.

Big hotpot restaurants like Hai Di Lao has been expanding around the world, even hotpot has made it into United States and from the accounts of people in the states, the popularity of hotpot is growing.

There are even different renditions of hotpot in the world, for instance, shabu-shabu in Japan, Mookata in Thailand and many others. Regardless of the style, hotpot remains the same, a pot that is heated by a fire source.

Getting hotpot on-the-go

Hotpot delivery from Gogopot Delivery in Klang Valley, Malaysia.

Hotpot delivery from Gogopot Delivery in Klang Valley, Malaysia.

When it comes to modernizing hotpot, the world has seen an unfortunate event going around this year (2020) but hotpot never gave up.

Hotpot restaurants are even serving "On-The-Go" hotpot so that you can have a good hotpot from the comfort of your own home, an example of which, is a hotpot restaurant in Malaysia delivering during lock down (as seen in the picture below).

No matter how difficult time can be, people will always find ways to enjoy their favorite hotpot meal even if their favorite restaurants are closed and an applause to the hotpot restaurants who serve hotpot on-the-go.

A question for you guys

© 2020 Nigel Koay

Comments

Nigel Koay (author) from Malaysia on October 21, 2020:

Hey BringingSpring, i believe that most of the ingredients can be bought in most Asian supemarkets or at Chinatown. There's even instant soup bases hahah. Hope you enjoyed the read and enjoy hotpot soon.

BringingSpring from Western North Carolina on October 21, 2020:

This looks really good. I’ve seen some of the people I watch on YouTube eating hotpot meals, but have never tried it. I’d love to find a way to try this out, even though right now there are only three of us here at the house. I’m not sure we would want to share with anyone, even family, right now because of health issues, but would still like to try it. I just need to figure out where to get all the ingredients I will need. Thank you for sharing this!

Nigel Koay (author) from Malaysia on October 20, 2020:

Hey Lakshmi, thank you, hope you liked it.

Lakshmi from Chennai on October 20, 2020:

Very interesting article.