Chinese Mongolian Hot Pot is perfect for celebrating Christmas, New Year’s, Chinese New Year, or for serving on any cold winter night. Chinese hot pot is similar to fondue, with a big pot of broth and lots of foods that everyone cooks themselves. It’s an interactive, fun and festive meal.
Chinese hot pot, fire pot, or Chinese fondue as it is sometimes called, has been one of our family traditions for many years. My Mom used to serve it for New Year’s Eve and I’ve been making it for my family for special occasions like Christmas, New Year’s and Chinese New Year. It’s the ultimate one pot meal, and perfect for a freezing cold day.
My kids love Chinese hot pot. Similar to fondue, there is a large pot filled with broth simmering away, placed at the center of the table. Then, there are plates upon plates of a variety of proteins (meat, fish, shellfish, tofu, fish balls, shrimp balls, meat balls, fish cakes), vegetables (bok choy and mushrooms are my personal favorites) and dipping sauces. In addition, noodles of some sort are usually served with Chinese hot pot (we’ve used cellophane noodles, Korean glass noodles, and udon noodles), and sometimes wontons are added.
For our annual Chinese hot pot meal for ten people, I set up two electric woks on my dining room table (it’s always a trick because we have to run two extension cords too). Alternatively, you can use an electric fondue pot, electric skillet or a portable induction stove.
This year, I am making a very simple hot pot for Chinese New Year ~ a Mongolian Hot Pot from my Aunt Florence’s cookbook, Cooking with Fire Pots. Mongolian Hot Pot is basically thin sliced lamb, cellophane noodles (sometimes called mung bean or glass noodles), tofu and leafy green Chinese vegetables. The dipping sauce is rich and flavorful, made with roasted sesame paste (or peanut butter), soy sauce, sesame oil, sherry, vinegar, sugar and spicy red chili oil.
Thinly sliced meats can be found in the frozen section of most Asian grocery stores, specifically meant for hot pot. Variations of hot pot are found in all parts of Asia – there’s Japanese Shabu Shabu and Sukiyaki, and Korean hot pot. I found thinly sliced lamb at H Mart, a Korean supermarket, but I’ve seen pre-sliced meats at our local Japanese market and Chinese market too.
The proper way to eat Mongolian hot pot is to cook slices of lamb in the hot pot broth (it takes just seconds), then dip it in the sesame dipping sauce. Once everyone is done cooking the lamb, all the other goodies are added to the hot pot ~ tofu, leafy green Chinese vegetables (bok choy in this case), and cellophane noodle.
Cellophane noodles come dried in packs, and just need to be soaked for 20 minutes in hot water to hydrate them before cooking.
I used baby bok choy, but you can use any leafy green vegetable, such as spinach or napa cabbage.
Tofu is a great flavor absorber and goes terrific with the sesame sauce. You can use whatever kind of tofu you like – I like soft tofu better than firm tofu.
What I love most about Chinese hot pot is that it’s an interactive meal, and be sized up or down easily. This will continue to be one of our family’s favorite traditions – I think we would have a revolt in our house if I didn’t serve Chinese hot pot to my family at least once a year.
Chinese Mongolian Hot Pot
- 1 pound thinly sliced lamb
- 4 ounces cellophane noodles soaked in hot water for 20 minutes
- 1 pound bok choy or spinach cut into bite size pieces
- 1 block tofu
- 8 cups chicken broth
Sesame Dipping Sauce
- 6 tablespoons roasted sesame paste or peanut butter
- 6 tablespoons warm water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sherry
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon hot chili oil
Make Sesame Dipping Sauce by blending the sesame paste with the water in a medium bowl; add salt, soy sauce, sherry cider vinegar, sugar and hot chili oil. Spoon a few tablespoons of sauce into each of 4 small serving bowls.
Heat broth in hot pot (use an electric wok, electric skillet, or portable induction cooktop).
Place sliced lamb on serving plate, drained cellophane noodles in a bowl, and bok choy in a bowl , and place around the hot pot.
To serve, each person takes a piece of sliced lamb and dips it in the hot broth to cook it (it will cook in a few seconds because the meat is so thinly sliced), removes it to their bowl of sauce and eats it. Once everyone is done with the meat, add the tofu, noodles and bok choy to the pot and cook a few minutes until done. Divide among everyone's bowls, adding more sauce if desired.
Adapted from Florence Lin's Cooking with Fire Pots. Beef or chicken can be substituted for lamb, if desired.