Originating from China, “hot pot” is an ancient cooking method that’s still very popular today, especially throughout Asia. Also known as “hotpot,” the dish has been around for nearly 2,000 years now.
However, some historians believed hot pot first started as primarily a need to cook warm food during winter. Also, the modern hot pots we often see today did not really exist until around the 14th century. During this time, the Ming dynasty and the subsequent Qing dynasty helped popularize the hot pot because the emperors truly enjoyed it.
Typically, there is a large pot that is hot because it is cooking food and broth inside. An electric stove is commonly used. The simmering pot can contain various ingredients, usually meat, tofu, shrimp, mushrooms, veggies, noodles, and more.
After cooking everything, including the raw meat directly inside the soup, those gathered around take turns scooping out the stew-like dish into their small bowls. Usually, chopsticks and spoons are used, and a side of dipping sauce and seasonings are provided.
Over the course of centuries, hot pot has been considered more than a traditional dish but more an experience. Therefore, the social meal is meant to be shared among close family and friends rather than alone. Essentially, an excellent excuse to bring everyone together and at any time of the year instead of annually. Yet, hot pot is most popularly shared during the colder months due to the warm nature of the dish that creates a more inviting environment.
Depending on where you travel to in China, many different areas carry a different hot pot flavor. For example, in southern Sichuan through the Yunnan region, the dish is considered relatively sour.
What started as a necessity for survival, hot pot is now an old food symbol of community with its popularity reaching other countries, resulting in more variations and styles for future generations to enjoy.