This year Lunar New Year came early – while the Christmas and New Year have just barely ended, the festive season continues in the Chinese community. While we have lots of auspicious dishes, hotpot (aka steamboat) is the most popular gatherings ways of eating at all times. We believed that it is also the most easier way to serve a huge group of people and families.
Like a summer barbecue, a Chinese hot pot party is as important as a social event as it is a meal, where friends and family gather and cook around a common pot while chatting and sipping beer. The great thing about a hot pot party is, it’s easy to prepare and very affordable. Plus, a group of people can share so many ingredients, so everybody has an opportunity to try out a variety of things, as well as enjoy their favorites.
Hot pot is a Chinese cooking process. A big pot is set in the center of the table containing boiling hot broth with a heating element underneath. Various raw ingredients are served around the pot, such as thinly sliced meat, seafood, vegetables, tofu, dumplings, and noodles. The guests cook the ingredients in the broth and eat them with a dipping sauce.
Broth/ Soup Base
There are many different styles of hot pot in China, depending on the region. The primary difference from region to region is the broth. Choosing the type of broth is one of the most important considerations when planning a hot pot party because all the food will be cooked in this broth. So it’s essential to choose a flavor that pleases all your guests.
For our family, we don’t have a habit of heavy sauce-dipping, therefore, we take the soup base seriously. Although, there is so much option of soup base sell outside commercially. Our family continues our maternal-grandmother and mother’s tradition – we will cook our own pork bone broth at home. The reason we prefer pork bone broth is that having hotpot could be heaty and we do not wish to worsen it for our health. (Usually, if I have Chicken soup, I have fever and throat issues easily.)
– Pork Bone Broth
– Chicken Broth
– Seafood Broth
– Mala Broth
– Japanese-styled Broth (e.g. Shio/Soyu/Miso)
Condiments and Staple food
While preparing hotpot (aka known as steamboat) we would never forget both condiments and the staple food (like rice, noodles, and dumplings).
Following are some of the basic types of condiments you will use:
– Oils (e.g. Sesame Oil, Chili Oil)
– Sauces (e.g. Soya Sauce, Yuzu Sauce, Goma Sauce)
– Garnishing (Garlic, Corriander, Chilli, Sesame, Spring Onion)
Type of Staple Food:
– Noodles (Rice Noodle, Udon, Glass Noodles, Ramen, Vincelli Noodle)
Now is the fun part. I love shopping for hot pot ingredients because you have practically unlimited options. And it’s a fact that almost everything will taste good thrown into a hot pot. Here are a few food groups that I recommend. It’s almost impossible to make a grocery list when it comes to hot pot ingredients because each grocery store carries so many different things. You should check out each food group and try to get a few diverse items from each group.
Meat and Seafood
Some of my personal favorites include sliced beef, sliced lamb, and fish balls. Ideally, you should shop for these ingredients at a supermarket. Because you can find machine-sliced meat that is intended for use in the hot pot. You can find these meats in the freezer section. The meat slices are rolled and packed in plastic containers.
Of course, you can always buy the meat and cut it at home. In this case, you’ll want to buy some well-marbled meat and slice it as thinly as possible, so the cooked meat will remain juicy and tender.
For those who are not huge fans of meats, seafood is is another amazing option for Hotpot. Seafood such as shrimp, squid, and sliced fish filets all work well in the hot pot. There is also the option like;
– Shellfish (Prawn, Oyster, Clams, Mussels)
– Prawn Paste – we make our very own version of prawn paste which is very similar to the haidilao steamboat that we like
– Fish Maw
One thing to remember is to never leave the meat in the hot broth and forget about it. The thinly sliced meat usually needs less than 30 seconds to cook through. What I usually do is hold the meat with my chopsticks and dip it in the hot broth, then immediately take it out when the color has just changed to cooked (or medium-rare, sometimes).
Seafood needs to be cooked according to the same rule, that you always want to keep an eye on it so it won’t overcook.
Tofu and soybean product
This food group is always a star at a Chinese hot pot party because there are so many varieties. There are tofu slices, beancurd sheets, fried tofu, cheese tofu, etc. All of them are made from soybeans but they have very different textures. The great thing is that they soak up flavor really well, so they taste so good when cooked in a hot pot.
Tofu usually requires the longest cooking time. So it’s very common to add a few pieces at the beginning of cooking and fish them out after 10 minutes or longer when you’re ready to eat them. The various tofu products require relatively little cooking time but they hold their shape well even when you cook them a bit too long. And they are edible even when cold, so they are ready to eat when tender and heated through.
Vegetables and Eggs
Another must-have on my hot pot table. Not all vegetables are created equal when it comes to the hot pot. The types that work best are leafy greens and root vegetables. For example, our current favorite 油麦菜. For mushroom, although regular white mushrooms work well, do venture out and try out some different types. Some of my favorites include golden needle (enoki) mushrooms (separated into smaller threads), shimeji (separated into smaller bunches), king oyster mushrooms (sliced), and shiitake mushrooms (sliced or halved).
The smaller mushrooms only take 2 to 3 minutes to cook, versus the large shiitake mushrooms, which can take 5 minutes or more.
The prep you’ll need for a hot pot party at home
The best thing about preparing a hot pot party is that it requires very minimal prep work. All you need is:
1. Consider the dietary restrictions of your guests, then decide the type of soup broth you will serve. Also, you need to plan based on the number of guests. A big hot pot usually serves six people perfectly, but could possibly serve eight. If you have more guests, you’ll need to consider setting up two hot pot sets, so your guests will have enough room to cook and will not be waiting forever for small amounts of food.
2. Shop for the ingredients, preferably at an Asian market where you can get everything you need. If there are no Asian markets where you live, you might want to plan a few days ahead and order some of the ingredients and equipment online.
When shopping for food for the hot pot, you simply need to consider the amount of meat and seafood. I usually prepare 4 to 8 ounces of meat and seafood per person. And I usually get plenty of other ingredients so I have a beautiful spread of food. I’ll save all the leftovers and use them to cook soups and noodles in the days following the party.
3. On the day of the party, wash and chop all the ingredients. Prepare the dipping sauces. Add the hot pot base and water into the hot pot, set it on the portable stove and place it in the center of the table. Prepare a slotted ladle on the side. Arrange all the ingredients around the pot. Prepare one to two small bowls, one plate, and one pair of chopsticks for each person.
Lastly, happy cooking and I wish you a successful hot pot party!
If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @leplaincanvas on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.
If you ever want to visit temples we highly recommend the temples in Kyoto, Japan. Hence if you didn’t plan to go to Kyoto yet, Tokyo actually has a lot of temples that are worth visiting. There is this beautiful yet adorable temple that catches our sight right away when we discovered it. We love the temples, and Gotokuji Temple definitely is on our list of going, it is also a “Lucky Cat” Temple for Cat Lovers which you won’t want to miss it!
We would say that both Spring and Autumn are the most beautiful season for temples visiting as most of the temples they designed with selected trees and flowers in their garden. Usually, you will find the most beautiful trees hidden on their ground, you can see why from most of our Kyoto temples visits. While some famous for their Sakura but Gotokuji Temple look the best in the autumn with their autumn leaves.
The temple is fairly easy to be found, simply get on the train to Gotokuji station via Odakyu Line hence to warn that you should plan as little itineraries as possible as it is quite far from the city area (which we underestimate it).
From google estimation, it requires at least 50mins from the Shinjuku Station.
The neighbourhood is very quiet and beautiful, on the road you will see all the houses organized nicely in orders. Unlike places we stayed in Tokyo, I would say that this neighbourhood is further away from the city, they do not have any high rises building so you can see how clear the sky is and enjoy the breeze with just fragrance of nature.
Upon entering the temples, you will see it covered with red and orange autumn leave (during the Autumn season). It is so clean and magnificent. I’m amazed at how it is different from a Chinese temple, it feels so “zen”, the way of life that enlighten me on a different level. Unlike the Chinese temple, Japan temples are not just for prayers, they allow the public to go and find their own and enjoy what they are looking for.
Between, the period we went, we saw lots of little girls or boys dress up in their Kimono/Robes for prayers. We are curious but from a Japanese friend of mine, we learned that during our trip it was the season of “Shichi-Go-San”.
Each autumn, families with young children celebrate a tradition known as Shichi-Go-San. In the custom, which literally means “seven-five-three,” families with three- or seven-year-old girls or five-year-old boys visit a shrine or temple to pray for the health of their offspring as they grow. Don’t you think they are adorable?
Hotpots are a wonderful traditional Chinese way of eating: friends and family gather around a bubbling pot of broth on a portable stove with plates of meat, seafood, and vegetables ready to be cooked in the soup. This is communal dining at its best, and the most memorable conversations are made over dunking fresh ingredients into hot, savory soup followed by dipping them into sauces.
Taking the world by storm is Haidilao Hot Pot, China’s most popular chain of restaurants with more than 100 outlets in 60 Chinese cities, as well as more in Los Angeles, Tokyo, Singapore, and Seoul. We decide to up our game in a hotpot and make their signature hot pot ingredients to help you up to your steamboat game.
My sister, she is easily addicted to a hobby or a kind of food. While Angela fell in love with “Hai Di Lao” Prawn Paste at first sight despite her mild allergy with prawns. She still fell in love with eating them and we have them whenever we are there.
Ways of Serving
You could serve the prawn paste in a piping bag like what they did in ‘Hai Di Lao’, where you will eat a small thick strip of prawn paste. Or you could put them in this bamboo holder, scooping them out using a spoon, allowing you to taste them like prawn ball.
Now you don’t need to head down ‘Hai Di Lao’ for this and you could enjoy them at your cozy home. Give this recipe a try and don’t forget to tag us on Instagram as @leplaincanvas and use the #byplaincanvas hashtag. We love seeing your takes on my recipes!
Get ready to celebrate and start decorating for the Chinese New Year. Decorate for the Chinese New Year with items such as lanterns, take-out boxes, festive table settings, oranges, and tangerines. Tie in traditional symbols and incorporate the colors red and gold in the decorations.
Take advantage of these traditional Chinese New Year decoration ideas:
Plan out your Chinese New Year decorations ahead of time, and don’t forget to clean your home in advance of setting up the décor. Clean away any ill-fortune, and welcome luck for the upcoming new year!
Today, the Chinese in Singapore mainly are both English and Chinese speakers hence each of us also inherits our grandparent’s roots. The most widely spoken dialects in Singapore include Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, and Hainanese. While both Joe and I surely learned and inherit both the culture of the Cantonese and Teochew. We also study deeply the food culture of our grandparents and parents origins. Despite being Chinese, different groups have different ways of preparing food. While the Cantonese love the bold flavours, the Teochew definitely enjoying the simplest of the taste that came from the ingredients.
While we are fortunate to born in both the culture as food is never boring with just one kind of flavour. This week we decide to share with you the making of Turnip Cake, 萝卜糕 is also known as Lo Bak Ko (the Cantonese pronunciation of Turnip Cake).
“Go” is the Cantonese way of saying “Kueh”, you will be surprised that in Asia that cake has multiple and hundreds of ways of making and we never define that it has to be just sweet. Savoury cakes play a huge part in our diets which we hope that more people get to know more about them.
Making Lo Bak Ko is fairly easy hence it contains many prep works, so if you are doing alone it considers at a 4 stars tough level. So we highly recommend you make it in a huge group when everyone is involved it makes things simple and time-saving.
Awhile back, I have this good friend shared with me that she was upset that foreigners don’t know about our dessert or Kueh’s culture.
As she mentioned that a foreign laughed about how Kueh Lapis is being made. “A dessert should be simple and what’s the fuse of having so many layers and despite the taste is the same,” she repeated what she heard from. That made me want to share more about our food – it’s a culture of our origin that we are proud of.
As you see, while Peranakan is a mixture of two cultures (Chinese and Malay) when two couples bonded as one.
It’s definitely will be complex and different but here is where a new culture is formed. That’s something so special that deserves to be praised and you can simply trace the history through the food we cook and eat. So we hope that you will fall in love with our food culture as we do.
You could serve in two beautiful ways – steam or pan-fry it after the 1st round of the steam (that we shared in the instruction sheet below).
We love the result of the Lo Bak Go, as it is firm and flavourful. You can serve and garnish it with spring onion. You will be able to taste all the amazing flavours from ingredients and with not even a bit of salt.
What I like about making it yourself is you could add in all the ingredients as much as you want, unlike a plain Turnip Cake you purchase outside.
Give this recipe a try and don’t forget to tag us on Instagram as @leplaincanvas and use the #byplaincanvas hashtag. We love seeing your takes on my recipes!