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 :)


  1. Posted 13 Jan ’10 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    What a coincidence – we are about to have hot pot tonight for Dinner Meet! :)

  2. Posted 13 Jan ’10 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful post, photos and recipe. Thanks. I forgot how much I love hot pot until I read this! :-)

    • Posted 14 Jan ’10 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      Thanks a bunch!! Hot pot is truly the best during the winter!

  3. Sonya
    Posted 13 Jan ’10 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for having us over! It was so delish!!

  4. Posted 13 Jan ’10 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    This dinner looks like so much fun! I’m impressed with all of the culinary adventures you have at home. I have yet to host a hot pot dinner, but perhaps I’ll have the confidence to try later this year.

    • Posted 14 Jan ’10 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      Hahaha I think I really enjoy feeding people so I try to grab as many friends that are willing to come and experiment new things together :) And I think you should TOTALLY host a hot pot dinner, it would definitely be fun times!

  5. Posted 13 Jan ’10 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    I’m commenting because Huo Guo is that GLORIOUS!

    This would be a really fun post for people who’ve never tried it before! I think last time we used satay too.

    • Posted 14 Jan ’10 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      MMM yes satay is my favorite, I ran out and forgot to get some at the store :( Huo Guo is the best FA SHO

  6. Posted 13 Jan ’10 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    This looks similar to a Korean dish that I love! This meal sounds amazing! I would love to try it sometime.

    • Posted 14 Jan ’10 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      MMMmm I adore Korean food — I hope you have fun trying hot pot!

  7. Posted 13 Jan ’10 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    I absolutely love hot pot. We’re supposed to have a few hot pot dinner this February when the weather the cooler but I heard from the news that summer is quite early. I should join you next time. :D I use natural light for the photos, if not, I would be in big trouble with the pictures. :)

    • Posted 14 Jan ’10 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Ah! You must post picture from your hot pot dinner :) Ah your pictures are beautiful Divina!

  8. Elissa
    Posted 13 Jan ’10 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful and delicious. That camera was a great investment :) You got some yummy shots!

    • Posted 14 Jan ’10 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Elissa!!! I am still working on lighting and composition, hopefully my pictures will improve soon :)

  9. Posted 13 Jan ’10 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    Where was this post last week?! My parents took me and Andy to Mongolian Hot Pot on Westheimer over the weekend, and it was… an adventure, lol. I wish I’d had your list of tips to prepare me. Oh well.

    It was delicious, though! I may have to use your recipes to try it at home. :)

    • Posted 14 Jan ’10 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      Mongolian Hot Pot eh?? I’ve never tried that — what was it like? You should TOTALLY try hotpot at home, invite a couple friends over and make it a party :)

  10. Posted 14 Jan ’10 at 1:44 am | Permalink

    Oh 火锅or Steam boat we called it here, is always a favourite during Chinese New Year.

    • Posted 14 Jan ’10 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      That is so interesting I didn’t know it was called Steam Boat! I can’t WAIT for Chinese New Year :)

  11. Posted 14 Jan ’10 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    This hot pot would be so much fun to try, looks perfectly delicious!

    • Posted 14 Jan ’10 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      It’s great for large (or small) groups — it’s a blast!!

  12. Posted 14 Jan ’10 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I think you’ve just given the me the nudge I need to try making hot pot at home… it always looks like so much work, but you make it sound so easy (and yummy). :) I’m assuming a fondue pot would probably do a good job of keeping the broth hot enough, right?
    (and OMG, the mice on the cake are unbearably cute… I love their little almond ears)

    • Posted 14 Jan ’10 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      Isabelle — I am so happy you are going to take the plunge…into hot pot that is! hee hee but yes I think a fondue pot will do just fine! Please tell me how everything works out :)

      I totally squealed when I saw the ears hahahaha

  13. Posted 15 Jan ’10 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    That’s such a healthy, warming feast! I wish I was there to join you. Hot pot is always my favourite. Little preparation and lots of fun. It’s quite like ‘fishing’…. :D

    • Posted 15 Jan ’10 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      It is like fishing!!! my friend Sonya said it’s like fishing for treasure!!! I thought that was an excellent way to describe the beauty of hot pot hahaha

  14. Posted 15 Jan ’10 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    i looooooooooooooooooove hotpot! i can literally have it everyday!
    yet the fact is our hotpot meal is always messy where food is everywhere. never looked like yours which is well-set and luxurious and of course delicious! and what is that dessert? we’ve never had such divine sweet after a brutal hotpot.
    you are such an evil, joy! :P

    • Posted 15 Jan ’10 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      HEE HEE HEE I AM EVIL!!! The dessert was a korean sweet potato layer cake, it had this moist yellow sponge cake layered with a sweet potato filling and then topped with this nice meringue like whipped topping — I’ve never tasted anything like it! Trust me, you should’ve seen the aftermath of this meal hahaha we had SO MUCH FOOD leftover and everything was quite messy :)

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