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What Are The Different Styles of Hotpot Available Around Asia?

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.

Traditional Beijing Hotpot, still using charcoal as the heat source.

Traditional Beijing Hotpot, still using charcoal as the heat source.

Yin Yang hotpot

Yin Yang hotpot

In this article, we will look at the different types of hotpot available around Asia, based on the traditional Chinese method of “Huo Guo” or Hot Pot in English.

Japan and Korea is known to have incorporated a small bit of traditional Chinese hotpot culture into their shabu-shabu and Jjigae dishes.

Thailand however, converted the traditional hotpot into a hybrid which is a soup base with Barbeque, and lastly, in Malaysia, hotpot can be a street food called “Lok Lok”, which is literally translated to Boil-Boil or a rendition of the traditional style.

These styles of hotpot are traditional to their respective countries, but the basis and roots of this method of cooking is still from China or some may say, Mongolia. Let’s look at the different types of Hotpot around Asia.

1) Malaysia

Traditional Steamboat (Hotpot) in Penang

Traditional Steamboat (Hotpot) in Penang

Malaysian Style Steamboat

In Malaysia, there is a significant Chinese community in the country, however, the style of hotpot in Malaysia is significantly different from its Mainland Chinese counterpart, this is because, most Malaysian Chinese originate from the South of China, which has a hotter climate compared to the North.

In Malaysia, we tend to reduce on serving the numbing spicy soup/ MaLa (which is normally a Northern Chinese cuisine) but replacing it with Tom yam (Thai Sour Soup) broth instead.

Steamboat at home

Steamboat at home

However, Malaysian Chinese style hotpot is still eaten commonly during Chinese New Year or during celebrations with the family.

It is still a family-oriented cuisine in Malaysia. Adding to that, due to Malaysia being a Muslim-majority country, Halal hotpot restaurants have been popping up in these modern times, therefore, everyone can enjoy hotpot together, which is a good change to the environment.

Lok-Lok in Penang, Malaysia

Lok-Lok in Penang, Malaysia

The Lok Lok

One other style of hotpot in Malaysia is the “lok-lok”, or literally translated to, “boil-boil”, which is a style of Hotpot commonly seen on the streets of Malaysia. Lok-Lok ingredients are commonly served on skewers and you pick the skewer and boil in the hotpot until it cooks, that's how to enjoy this.

Malaysia is known for its abundance of street food and lok-lok is one of them, it is indeed a special way to serve hotpot without deleting it’s traditional ways. Normally, a lok-lok is served with various sauces ranging from Sweet Sauce, Spicy Sauce and a Malaysian favorite, the Satay sauce. In some places, they have special sauces normally homemade from the shop itself.

2) Japan

A hot pot of Nabe

A hot pot of Nabe


Nabe (picture above) is commonly known as “Nabemono” where the word “Nabe” means cooking pot and the word “Mono” means thing.

It’s a Japanese style hotpot or also known as a “one pot dish”. Most “Nabemono” is served during the colder seasons in Japan and the broth is usually made using lightly flavoured stock and “Kombu”.

You may have seen a “Chankonabe” while scrolling through YouTube, that is the style of Nabe that normally “Sumo” wrestlers eat as part of their training diet.

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Shabu-Shabu served in Individual pots.

Shabu-Shabu served in Individual pots.


Shabu-Shabu is like a Traditional Chinese Hotpot as there are many similarities between the two dishes.

Shabu-Shabu falls under the “Nabe” family too as said above, “Nabe” mean cooking pot. Shabu-Shabu is normally served with thinly sliced meats (pork and beef are the most common meats used) together with a lightly flavoured broth and dipping sauces.

Shabu-shabu is traditionally cooked piece by piece, meaning you don’t dump everything into the pot at once.

3) Mongolia

Traditional Mongolian hotpot heated with charcoal.

Traditional Mongolian hotpot heated with charcoal.

Mongolian Traditional Hotpot

Well, some said, traditional hotpot concept originated in Mongolia when the Mongol Horsemen needed to have something to eat quick while on the road with their comrades.

Mongolian hotpot currently still uses the traditional method of using the hotpot with charcoal in the middle to create the heat. Mongolian hotpot commonly comes with lamb or beef as compared to its Chinese counterpart which often uses pork as their main protein.

Mongolian hotpot is still at its traditional state, the broth used in Mongolian hotpot is usually either water or chicken broth, however, this is one of the best ways to enjoy a hotpot which is to start from the origins.

When using water or Chicken broth, the meat flavors that you put into the pot will infuse into the broth, thus making it more flavorful. Besides meat flavors, vegetables can be added to the broth as well, in short, by using the meats and veggies, you’ve created a new broth from scratch.

4) Thailand

Mookata is a hybrid of BBQ and Hotpot.

Mookata is a hybrid of BBQ and Hotpot.

Mookata or Mu Kratha

Mookata or mostly known in Thailand as “Mu Kratha” where the word “Mu” is known as Pork and the term “Kratha” is known as pan. Mookata is a hybrid combination of the Chinese Hotpot and the Korean barbecue and commonly heated by Charcoal as its heat source.

Sliced meat and a wide variety of vegetables are normally served with a Mookata. The mechanism of this pot is when the pork is being cooked on the Barbecue section, its flavor will drip into the broth at the bottom,thus giving the broth a richer taste.

Most commonly, meats are cooked on the barbecue section while veggies and fish balls are cooked in the broth below.

Mookata often comes with two Thai style sauces, one for the meat, also known as Na Chim Suki (normally red) and one, normally known as Na Chim Seafood for the seafood (normally green).

5) South Korea

My Korean Kitchen's recipe for a buldak Jjigae (Army's stew).

My Korean Kitchen's recipe for a buldak Jjigae (Army's stew).

Budae-Jjigae (Korean Army Stew)

This is a historic dish in the Korean history as this dish was created shortly after the armistice after the Korean War.

This dish has a mixture of Korean army and American army influence hence the name of this dish, Budae-Jjigae, also known as Army Stew.

This dish was created due to the reduction in food supplies post-Korean war where people near the army bases collected the US army food supplies like Ham, Sausages etc.

Combined with gochujang (Korean Red pepper sauce) and Kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage), gives birth to an Army Stew.

The army stew is a popular dish throughout the years since the Korean war and it remains popular today and it is a common accompaniment to a drinks night.

Here's a all you can eat hotpot video from Strictly Dumpling

6) China

Chongqing hotpot, the traditional hotpot of China.

Chongqing hotpot, the traditional hotpot of China.

Chongqing Hotpot

Chongqing is where hotpot is said to have originated from, Chongqing is a municipality in Northwest China.

Aside from being the hotpot home of China, it has been gaining social media presence for its “9 patch” style pot where there are 9 different sections of the pot you can dip your ingredients in.

The broth of a Chongqing hotpot is normally spicy, similar to its Sichuan counterpart, this is because, Chongqing is quite a cold place to be, the people there use spice to keep them warm.

Now, when did this style of hotpot made its debut as a One world alliance member? It was said to have boom during World War 2, where Chongqing became a wartime capital of China.

FYI: In case you didn’t know what one world alliance is, it is an airline membership that is accepted in various airlines in the alliance.

According to , the people of Chongqing will have hotpot whenever they come home from abroad and when they are leaving the city for a while.

Similarly, when sad or worried, they will comfort themselves with hotpot. Lastly, Chongqing was named the city of Hotpot in 2007 by the China Cuisine Association.

© 2020 Nigel Koay

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