Chinese New Year is a time to reunite with loved ones and gather around the dining table for a warm meal. Hotpot or steamboat symbolises abundance and togetherness, making it a popular choice for Chinese New Year celebrations.
What is Hotpot?
Also known as steamboat, hotpot is a communal dining experience originating from East Asia and is popular in many Asian countries. It involves cooking raw food such as meat slices or meatballs, vegetables, and noodles in a seasoned broth at the center of the table. There is a wide range of broths, and they are often infused with herbs and spices, creating rich and aromatic soup bases. While you and your family can go to hotpot restaurants for your family reunion meal, hotpot can easily be eaten at home as well, if you have the following:
Having Hotpot at Home
You will need fresh ingredients including vegetables, beef, crabs, chicken, and spices – depending on your personal taste and the heat level you prefer. All you need is a big pot of water and a heat source to boil your ingredients in. Don’t forget to add a flavourful soup base. You could make your own using chicken broth and other ingredients, or purchase ready-made ones. If you find the broth too oily, get a bowl of rice to soak up the extra oil from the cooked ingredients from the broth. If you’re planning to have a hotpot this year, here are some of the best hotpot soups that will tantalise your taste buds:
Traditional Clear Broth
The traditional clear broth is a classic choice for hotpot enthusiasts who prefer a neutral broth. It is considered a healthy option and serves as a clean and light base that allows the ingredients to shine. It’s simply made of bone, vegetables, herbs and spices, and salt.
Collagen Soup Broth
Another common soup base is the collagen soup broth, which is known for its healthy benefits and popularity, and is made by simmering chicken bones for an extended period. This process allows the collagen, a protein found in connective tissues, bones, and skin, to dissolve into the broth, resulting in a rich and hearty flavour, and a thick and silky texture. While additional ingredients can be added based on personal preference, some common ones for this type of broth include star anise, ginger slices, and goji berries.
Nourishing Herbal Soup
If you prefer a lighter and more nourishing option, the Nourishing Herbal Soup is a great choice. Made with a combination of Chinese herbs, this soup is believed to have health benefits such as improving your lungs, promoting digestion, and boosting the immune system. The herbs include red dates, Chinese yam, dried figs, goji berries, and lotus seeds.
Spicy Sichuan Mala Broth
For those who enjoy a fiery kick, the Spicy Sichuan Mala broth is a must-try. Packed with fragrant spices and numbing Sichuan peppercorns, this broth will add an extra dimension of heat and excitement to your hotpot experience. This broth usually includes ginger, garlic, bean paste for umami, bay leaves, star anise, and more.
For vegetarians or those who simply love mushrooms, the Mushroom Broth is a delightful option. Made with a variety of mushrooms such as shiitake and enoki, this broth is earthy and full of umami flavors.
If you’re looking for a familiar and comforting taste, the Tomato Soup is a great choice. This soup adds a touch of sweetness to your hotpot and pairs well with ingredients like meatballs and tofu.
For seafood lovers, the Seafood Broth is a fantastic option. Made with a combination of seafood such as prawns, clams, and fish bones, this broth is rich and flavorful, perfect for cooking seafood ingredients like prawn, fish slices and scallops.
Tom Yum Soup
Add a Thai twist to your hotpot with the tangy and spicy Tom Yum Soup. This soup is bursting with flavors from lemongrass, lime leaves, and chili, giving your hotpot a refreshing and zesty taste. Tom yum soup pairs well with seafood and chicken.
Add a Korean twist to your hotpot with the tangy and spicy Kimchi Soup. This soup is made with fermented kimchi, giving it a unique flavor that pairs well with meat and vegetables. It also pairs well with firm tofu, chicken, and beef brisket.
Whether you’re eating at home or in a restaurant, hotpot is a communal and flavoursome dining experience that’s especially great for family dinners. You could opt for classic broths such as nourishing broth or Spicy Mala broth, or you could try new infusions such as Tom Yum or Kimchi soups. No matter which hotpot soup you choose, the key is to enjoy it with your loved ones and create lasting memories during the Chinese New Year celebrations. May your reunion dinner be filled with warmth, laughter, and delicious hotpot dishes!