How to: create a fuss-free hot pot experience

At Play Cultural Heart

Food brings people together and a hot pot, also known as a steamboat, is the epitome of a shared experience. It is a popular dish in many Asian cultures, each with their own variations. All create a delightful, social experience with family and friends bonding as they cook their meal, dipping fresh ingredients in a boiling broth. It is perfect for Lunar New Year gatherings.

It's not a difficult ‘dish’ to prepare, as there’s hardly any cooking required. There are, however, some essentials that make for a hot pot experience to remember.

Once you get the basics right, you can hot pot any day, any time and however you like.

Soup bases

Hot pot starts with a clean, clear stock base and finishes as a delicious broth to be savoured at the end of the meal. Prepare either a vegetable stock, made with carrots and daikons, or a chicken stock with chicken frames and spring onions. Add a dash of light soya sauce, white pepper and Chinese wine to taste. Options to consider – adding tom yum or mala* paste for a fancy, spicy soup base. Most of these ingredients are readily available at Asian grocery shops.

*Mala is a Chinese spicy sauce made with Sichuan peppercorns and spices simmered in chilli oil.

Fresh ingredients

The good thing about hot pot is there isn’t a prescribed recipe. There is, however, a list of must-have ‘auspicious’ hot pot ingredients to celebrate the Lunar New Year. They include:

  • Dumplings = wealth. The shape of the dumplings resembles Chinese currency of yesteryear, the ingot.
  • Fish and abalone = abundance. Fish and abundance have the same pronunciation (but written differently) Yu, in Chinese.
  • Prawns = laughter. In Cantonese, a Chinese dialect, prawn is pronounced Har. Saying prawn on repeat, sounds like laughter.
  • Noodles = longevity. The longer the noodle the better, signifying long life.
Hot pot fresh ingredients


Here’s a fail-safe list of ingredients:

  • Meats: thinly sliced meats or meatballs – beef, lamb, chicken, pork
  • Seafood: fish, abalone, squid, prawns, scallop
  • Vegetables: Chinese cabbage (wong bok), egg or plain tofu, enoki or shitake mushrooms
  • Noodles: rice vermicelli, egg or glass noodles

Whatever it is, it’s not only important but necessary to have lots of ingredients for hot pot during Lunar New Year. It is symbolic of welcoming a bountiful new year. 


Hot pot basket

The right tools make all the difference:

  • Cooker: both an electric induction cooker or a single butane stove would work. Even an electric wok is a great hot pot receptacle.
  • Pot: for the hot pot lover, only a special half and half pot where you can have 2 options of soup bases – one spicy and one not – would be perfect. But otherwise, any pot that’s not too deep, for easy access, would work well.
  • Slotted spoon or hot pot baskets: they work like a net for dipping raw ingredients into the boiling broth.


Hot pots are best served with steamed rice. An alternative is chicken rice which can be easily prepared in the rice cooker, replacing water with chicken broth or using store bought chicken rice paste for a fuss free option.

Essential to complete the hot pot experience are dipping sauces. Add toasted sesame seeds, chopped coriander to store bought hot pot chill sauce or make your own, adding sliced bird’s eye chilli to soya sauce or fish sauce.

Fluffy rice bowl

Last but not least, the final touch to THE hot pot experience, enjoy the gathering of family and friends over a shared meal. 

Discover more about Lunar New Year events and celebrations happening in the city in 2020.

Article by

Jeanmay Ho

Jeanmay Ho

Jeanmay is an accidental Adelaidean. Grateful to call this beautiful place home, she is passionate about celebrating community through shared experiences.