Hot pot: Flavorful broth is meant for sharing and customizing

By Evan Kleiman

Cooking raw food in a shared pot of broth is about social engagement and creativity. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

I recently had dinner with some friends who were mystified as to why the outdoor patio of a hot pot restaurant near them was packed throughout the pandemic. I, however, knew why. Who wouldn’t want to create a sense of closeness and community by cooking food at the table in a shared pot of flavorful broth? Hot pot has become the universal moniker for communal styles of enjoying various ingredients cooked in a hot broth at the table.

Hot pot is eaten throughout Asia. Mongolian hot pot, shabu shabu, and Szechuan numbing-spicy hot pot are just a few of the many types. 

Fundamentally, cooking raw food in a shared pot of broth is about social engagement and creativity. It also happens to be a low-stress way of meal preparation since nothing except the broth is made in advance. Broths vary from the sweet and mild sukiyaki broth to miso, pork, and the very popular Szechuan style that is spicy with both chile and mala or numbing pepper. 

Sichuan hot pot is famous for its spicy, tingly, fragrant broth. Photo by Shutterstock.

If you want to try making hot pot at home and don’t want to invest in a special pot right away, you can use your rice cooker or instant pot. Or do what I do and use a small table top burner powered by butane and a dutch oven. Although I have to say the divided pots that let you have two different broths in one pot are enticing. And if you’re not keen on making your own broth from scratch or trying to thinly slice meat for the pot yourself, we're lucky to have a host of Asian markets that sell every kind of ready-to-use hot pot base imaginable, plus various cuts of meats already sliced for you.

If you love a cooking project, here is the deepest internet dive on making hot pot at home I’ve found. And here is the Serious Eats guide to DIY hot pot.

And if you want to just go to a restaurant, here is a small list.

  • Shabu Shabu House is an OG, stripped down eatery for dinner only.
  • Shabuya offers a choice of five soup bases and nine meats. There is a vegetable-only option too. 
  • Mizu 212, in West LA, has premium proteins and vegetables.
  • Boiling Point offers 11 choices of individual pots that come to the table completely cooked, so all you have to do is eat.