The Perfect Winter Meal: Hot Pot - "Huo Guo"

Hot Pot or "Huo Guo" in Chinese, is probably one of my favorite things to do during the winter.  Everyone huddles around a pot of simmering broth during a chilly winter night, surrounded by various types of raw seafood, meats and vegetables that you quickly cook in the broth and then dip it in a sauce of your choice.   It's "asian fondue" if you will and not only is it interactive and fun, but it is a very healthy alternative to your usual "cheese or chocolate fondue".

I had a few friends over who have never experienced hot pot before and we all had such a blast.  The beauty of this meal is the communal efforts needed to make this meal perfect -- using ladels to discover the "treasures" that are hidden beneath the broth -- "Who wants an oyster mushroom? broccoli? tofu?"  and just having a family style dinner in general makes dinner a more intimate and close knit setting.

Most Chinese and Asian meals are family style, which I love because you get to taste everything!  American traditions are more individualized, everyone gets their own plate.  I really struggled with this concept because I'd find myself wanting to try everything my friends would order but don't get me wrong it definitely hasn't stopped me from picking off people's plates :)  I am sure it drives people crazy which is why I usually ask in my sweetest and most convincing tone as possible -- "Do you mind if I try your dish?" It works 98% of the time (Girls, don't forget to bat your eyelashes)!

There are various types of broths that are used for hot pot, I chose a traditional herbal chicken broth and a hot and spicy fish broth.  You can also make them vegetarian: miso broth or shiitake/mushroom broth.  When the broth in the hot pot runs low, simply add more!

Ingredients for Herbal Chicken Broth:

  • 2 chicken thighs
  • 2 ginger slices
  • 2 ginseng slices
  • 6 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried dates

Place all ingredients in a large deep bottomed pot and cover to the top with water and cook at medium low heat for 1-2 hours.

Ingredients for Spicy Fish Broth:

  • 1 lb fish scraps or 2 8oz fish fillets (salmon, mahi, etc)
  • 1 tablespoon chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon black bean chili paste
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 thai chiles, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dashi soup powder
  • 1 tablespoon scallions, chopped

Mix fish scraps, chile powder and dashi in a large deep bottomed pot and cover to the top with water and simmer at medium low heat for 1-2 hours.  Upon serving, saute the garlic with the chile paste and chiles in a small saucepan and immediately place into the broth.  Add the sliced tomatoes and scallions.

While your broths are simmering away on the stove, go ahead and begin prepping your ingredients.  If you are vegetarian, do an all vegetarian hotpot!  I chose to do a pretty extensive spread since everyone was new to the concept.  Here is the breakdown of the ingredients that I bought:

Meats & Seafood:

  • Rib Eye
  • Chicken
  • Salmon
  • Squid
  • Spicy Fish Balls
  • Squid Balls
  • Oysters


  • Bok Choy
  • Napa Cabbage
  • Yu Choy
  • Taro
  • Korean Sweet Potato
  • Baby Corn
  • Broccoli
  • White Button Mushrooms
  • Oyster Mushrooms
  • Enoki Mushrooms
  • Fresh Bamboo
  • Spinach
  • Tofu
  • Fried Tofu


  • Dried Egg Noodle
  • Cellophane Noodle/ Beanthread Noodle

Some Tips for Hot Pot:

  1. In order for hot pot to happen, you have to have a portable burner that will keep your broth at a gentle simmer.  If you have a stove top that's situated in the island of your kitchen, that will work as well too.
  2. To thinly slice your meat, freeze them first and then slice the meat when it's still almost frozen -- this will ensure that you get thin even slices.  You can also buy precut meats at your local Asian grocery store.
  3. You can buy these miniature ladels at Asian markets that will make fishing out the food you place in the broth easier, however chopsticks will suffice as well.
  4. In my family, we usually cook the meats first than the vegetables and then end with noodles -- the broth at the end is my favorite part.
  5. Be sure not to dump too many items into the broth all at once, this will lower the temperature and increase the cooking time for the items placed inside the pot!
  6. Be careful to not burn your mouth, once you pull out your food, set it aside on your plate and allow it to cool off a bit before dipping it in your sauce and eating it -- especially with items that hold a lot of liquid like mushrooms, fried bean curd, and broccoli.
  7. Any items that are leftover from hot pot can easily be used for stirfrys, soups, or...MORE HOT POT!

For the sauces -- I made a base of peanut sauce (1/2 peanut butter, 1/2 water), if you prefer a thicker sauce simply just add more peanut butter.  Then to the base you can add a variety of different sauces like -- Sriracha, Chili Powder, Chinese BBQ Sauce, Black Bean Sauce, Oyster Sauce, Hoisin Sauce, etc.  Each person makes their sauce to their own personal taste and that will be used to dip all the items in!

This is certainly a meal that can go as large as 8-10 people to as small as 2-4, either way everyone has fun and no one is left hungry!  What's not to love?  Good variety of food? Check.  Fun and Interactive meal?  Check.  Healthy AND delicious?  Double Check.  Good conversation and company?  Always.

Speaking of which -- Thank you to all that joined us for this meal: Sonya, Lucas, Eric and Cyrus, I am so happy all of you came and Collin and I had such a great time with all of you.  And Sonya also bought this LOVELY Korean Sweetpotato Layer Cake -- not only was it the CUTEST cake I've ever seen but it was freaking delicious.  The minute Sonya and Lucas left, Collin, Eric and I polished the entire cake off -- I couldn't eat like a pig infront of guests now could I?  : ) Anyways, thanks a ton Sonya for bringing that cake, it truly was sensational and very dangerous in the regard that I could completely see myself killing an entire cake to myself.

Anyways, I hope some of you give this a shot, it truly is so easy to put together -- you leave the cooking up to your friends and all you have to do is prep the ingredients, it can't get any better than that!  And since the meal isn't overly heavy, having a  slice of cake (or in my case 3 slices) afterwards is the perfect way to end the meal :)