Yes, There Is A Right (And Wrong) Way To Eat Hot Pot
Depending on how interactive you like to get with your dining experiences, hot pot could be your favorite kind of meal. It’s like if Korean BBQ and an all-you-can-eat buffet came together and had a delicious food baby. With hot pot, you get to cook all kinds of meats and vegetables in bubbling broth baths right at the table. You’re in complete control of your meal and can eat as much as your stomach can handle. With that said, there are definitely some do’s and don’ts of eating hot pot you’ll want to know about before giving this culinary experience a try.
DO: Use two pairs of chopsticks.
Since you’re handling raw meat, you’ll want to have two pairs of chopsticks handy. Use one pair to lower all of your meats into the boiling broth and the other to eat (and dunk) all of your food after it’s cooked. You can never be too careful when it comes to foodborne illnesses.
DON’T: Wear bulky clothing.
Keep in mind that you’re literally sitting with your face over steaming pots of broth, so you should wear a bunch of layers that you can remove. Also, if you have a coat or any item of clothing that’s difficult to wash, you might want to leave it at home because you will undoubtedly leave smelling like everything you’re cooking for dinner. But if aromas don’t both you, wear anything you want. Hell, wear a ball gown if that’s what makes you happy.
DO: Go for a flavorful broth.
If it’s your first time eating hot pot, you might be inclined to go with a basic broth. That’s completely fine if you load up on sauces, but if you plan on flavoring your meat with only the broth, you should go for something flavorful like Tom Yum broth, which has lemongrass, chili peppers, fish sauce, galangal and lime juice in it. If you’re a spicy food fan, you’ll want something like the Ma-la broth, which is a curry-like broth made with all kinds of spicy ingredients.
DO: Load up on vegetables.
Depending on the hot pot restaurant you go to, there’s usually a buffet-style ingredient bar with a bunch of the vegetables and sauces to choose from. Load up on everything you can — especially the bok choy and mushrooms — because hot pot is typically all-you-can-eat.
DON’T: Walk away from the table when your meat is cooking.
Once the broth is bubbling, you’re ready to go. As soon as you drop the meat into the broth, it cooks within a minute or two. So don’t walk away once you put the meat into the broth unless you want to end up with rubbery meat. Even if you’re not a patient person, you can still handle sitting and watching your meat cook for a minute or two.
DO: Split pots.
If you can’t make up your mind on which type of broth to get, some hot pot restaurants will let you do a split pot, meaning you’ll get to try two different combinations for your meat, veggies and noodles. This way, you can learn what you like best for next time.
DON’T: Fill up on noodles.
Noodles might help thicken your broth and add a little extra flavor, but you don’t want to fill up too quickly on noodles. If you want noodles, eat them towards the end of your meal once you’ve experimented with all of the other all-you-can-eat items. You can eat noodles anywhere.
DO: Use a strainer.
There’s no need to waste time trying to pick up all of the vegetables and meat with your chopsticks. Instead, use a strainer to take everything out of the broth seamlessly. If you’re just poking around with chopsticks, you might miss some slices of meat or veggies at the bottom, and you’ll risk overcooking your food.
DON’T: Combine different proteins.
If you’ve ordered both seafood and red meat, you’re better off putting them into different broths. Seafood tends to take over other flavors, so give the shrimp and scallops their own pot and let the beef stand alone.
DO: Try all of the sauces.
One of the hot pot traditions is making your own sauce. You’ll get to choose from all kinds of different condiments to create your own winning sauce combo. Dip your veggies and protein into your personal sauce concoction after it’s all done cooking. And if you’re feeling super confident, trademark that sh*t.
Hot pot is more than just a meal — it’s an experience. Expect long periods of silence when everyone is deeply invested in the food in front of them. It’s moments like these that conversation just isn’t necessary
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