As a first generation Taiwanese-Chinese American, I grew up celebrating Lunar New Year with my family every year. One of my favorite New Year traditions is gathering around the table with loved ones for hot pot. Hot pot is a meal eaten with a pot (sometimes more than one if you have a lot of guests!) of simmering soup or broth placed at the center of the dining table. There's usually a variety of raw and uncooked vegetables, meats, and other items, also arranged on the dining table, that are then placed into the simmering pot and cooked. Each guest "cooks" their own items in the pot, making for a fun, interactive, and engaging meal meant to be shared with family and friends.
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As an adult, I carry on this tradition by sharing it with my friends and loved ones. Aside from being a great way to connect with and share my culture, I also love hot pot as a meal in itself. As a host, it's simple to put together since everyone technically cooks their own food. The ingredients are customizable to dietary restrictions or preferences, so you can really choose whatever ingredients you'd like! And the act of cooking at the table allows everyone to be present and spend quality time together. Want to try hot pot for yourself? I've compiled a list of my favorite hot pot essentials below. Happy Lunar New Year! 祝大家新年快乐！
I'm not kidding when I say that my wok has been in my family for decades. We've been using it ever since I was born! While I wasn't able to find the exact one I have since it was passed down to me years ago (it's the West Bend Original Wok, you may be able to find it used on Etsy), any electric wok with an attached heat/temperature control will work. Fly By Jing also recently launched one as part of its "Year of Taste" collection.
Table Setting and Dinnerware
To create a festive table for ringing in the Year of the Tiger, I used these gorgeous pieces in the Social Studies Lunar New Year Box, a collaboration between the brand and award-winning fashion designer and culinary creator Peter Som. The beautiful white and blue-patterned sauce and soup bowls feel super nostalgic and bring me back to the family hot pot dinners of my childhood. My favorite pieces in the box are the red envelopes (or 红包, pronounced hóngbāo). It's a Lunar New Year tradition to gift red envelopes filled with money (it doesn't have to be a lot, I used to receive a quarter or a dollar as a kid!), symbolizing good wishes for the year ahead.
These little wire baskets are so helpful for keeping everyone's food contained while cooking in the hot pot. There's nothing sadder than putting some goodies in only to completely lose them in the broth! While I wasn't able to find these exact ones (they've been in my family for decades), here are some similar ones I found on Amazon.
While these are my favorite ingredients to include in hot pot, feel free to use this as a guide. Everyone's taste preferences and dietary restrictions are different, and the beauty of hot pot is the ability to decide what ingredients you'd like to "cook" at your meal!
I love a spicy hot pot base, so Fly By Jing's tingly option filled with Sichuan Pepper extract is a natural choice for me. If you don't like spice, you can start with water, stock, or a not-so-spicy base option. With or without a base, the broth that results at the end of the meal is absolutely delicious, absorbing all the flavors of all the ingredients that were cooked in the pot.
When buying meat, look for thinly sliced options. Usually they'll be labeled as "for hot pot" or "for shabu shabu." Meats that are thinly sliced in this style cook more thoroughly and much more quickly in simmering broth.