How to Throw a Hot Pot Party
Can you think of a better party to host than one where the guests make their own meal? That's one of the perks of hot pot, the communal meal that has guests testing their dexterity with chopsticks as they dip crisp veggies, delicate seafood, and tender strips of meat into a big, bubbling pot of fragrant broth. Sure, you'll do a fair amount of slicing and dicing before your guests arrive, but once they sit at the table and get to dunking, your work is practically done.
The tradition of hot pot is thought to have originated thousands of years ago in Mongolia, but today is common all over Asia. Families and friends gather for hot pot throughout the year, but it's especially popular during cold months, and to celebrate holidays like Chinese New Year.
Other than how easy it makes entertaining, one of the other major pros of hot pot is its versatility. Each element from the broth to the veggies, proteins, and sauces can be anything you want it to be. And if you've got guests who have a dietary restriction like vegetarian, pescatarian, or gluten-free, your ingredients can be tailored to fit those specifications.
It's also easy to adjust your shindig to how much prep you desire to do. Want to go all out and make your own dumplings, meatballs, and sauces? Have at it: we've got the recipes. But if you're more of a grab-and-go kind of cook, you can pick up broth, pre-sliced veggies, and everything else you need at the store.
Hot Pot Recipes for a Party
For the broth, make an extra-big batch of Roasted Chicken Broth, Beef Bone Broth, or Vegan Broth. They'll be the perfect base for the meal as-is, or you can dress them up with aromatics like fresh ginger, cilantro, Thai basil, garlic, green onions, red chiles, star anise, or cinnamon. Just keep in mind what ingredients you're serving the broth with when choosing your broth flavorings.
If you want to make some of your own hot pot add-ins, you can whip up a recipe for Asian Turkey Meatballs, Potstickers, Pork Gyoza, or Mongolian Meatballs. But it's also fine to buy whatever pre-made ingredients you want to at the store, especially since there's a significant amount of food prep for this party. Plus, it can be really fun to peruse Asian markets for lesser-known ingredients.
The finishing touch of the meal is the sauces, which you can also make yourself (try our Thai Chili Sauce) or pick up at the store. You can also have your guests make their own creations by setting up a custom sauce station. Just set out a selection of bottles and jars — many of which you probably already have in your pantry or fridge — like soy sauce, hot chili or sesame oil, rice vinegar, black bean sauce, minced garlic and ginger, sliced scallions, slivered hot peppers, peanut sauce, fresh cilantro, chili paste, and lime juice. Make your own dipping sauce, and then go enjoy the party.
What You'll Need
The beauty of hot pot is that you can choose your own ingredients, but we've rounded up some suggestions for what to serve.
- Vegetables: Napa cabbage, baby bok choy, daikon radish, enoki mushrooms, greens, watercress
- Meat: thinly sliced pork loin or belly, thinly sliced rib eye or Wagyu steak, and pre-baked meatballs
- Seafood: shrimp, scallops, squid, clams, mussels, and fish balls
- Noodles: rice, yam, or cellophane noodles, ramen, or udon
- Fresh or fried tofu
- Steamed or fried dumplings
- An electric hot pot set (we like the Williams Sonoma Open Kitchen Hot Pot, available for $90 at williams-sonoma.com), or a large and wide pot with a source of heat (such as an electric hot plate or burner), or an electric slow cooker
- Two sets of chopsticks for each guest
- Serving bowls
- Small bowls for sauces
- Small strainers, skimmers, or tongs
What to Do Ahead of Time
- Wash and trim the vegetables, cutting any large veggies into bite-sized pieces
- Slice the meat and clean seafood
- Cook noodles
- Cook tofu or dumplings, if desired
- Get sauces or DIY sauce station ready
- Set the table
- Set out your electric hot pot set or other pot/heat combo and get the broth simmering
- Lay out the first round of ingredients just before guests arrive
Hot Pot Etiquette
- Everyone should get two pairs of chopsticks: one for plucking ingredients from the communal pot and transferring them to their bowl, the other for eating.
- You only want to take the ingredients you've added to the pot yourself. No stealing!
- Keep an eye on your ingredients as they cook so you don't forget what you've added to the pot.
- Just like with any type of cooking, different ingredients require different cooking times. Cook meat or seafood until it's fully cooked. Noodles and other pre-cooked ingredients just need to be heated through. Cook raw veggies until al dente: Napa cabbage and greens may only need a quick swish into the broth to get perfectly tender as they soak up some flavor.
FYIs for the Hot Pot Party Host
There's a lot of chopping and slicing that goes into the prep for a hot pot. Don't be afraid to ask a friend or two to come over early to lend a hand. Turn on some tunes, catch up, and make it a pre-party.
During the party, keep an eye on the pot to make sure the broth is hot enough. And try not to overcrowd the pot with raw ingredients since that will cause the temperature to drop.
It's best to serve the food in stages. Starting with seafood and vegetables, then meat, and lastly noodles is a common progression (you can also drink any broth left at the end of the meal). Hot pot parties usually go on for hours, so it's important to keep food at a safe temperature until you're ready to serve it.
The flavor of the broth will become more intensified as it boils down and ingredients are added. Top it off occasionally to keep the flavor consistent, or start with a fresh batch if you notice forgotten ingredients left in the bottom of the pot.
Don't forget to have fun! Your guests are going to appreciate all the effort you put into the event, so avoid stressing too much about the small stuff.
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