What is Hotpot? Exploring Origins, Ingredients, & Varieties

August 23, 2023

Are you a hotpot enthusiast, a restaurant owner looking to spice up your menu, or someone fascinated by the world of hotpot cuisine? If you've ever wondered about the origins of hotpot or the secrets behind crafting the perfect simmering broth, you're in the right place! 

In this blog post, we'll take you on a flavorful adventure through the world of hotpot, exploring its roots, ingredients, cooking techniques, and regional varieties. Intrigued? Let’s dive right in!

What is Hotpot?

Hotpot, also known as steamboat or soup food, is a communal dining experience where diners cook thinly sliced meat, seafood, vegetables, and other ingredients in a simmering pot of flavored broth at the table. Once cooked, these ingredients are dipped in various sauces before being eaten. This popular East Asian dish fosters a social atmosphere. It offers various ingredients, flavorful broths, and dipping sauces, making it a delightful and interactive dining choice for any occasion.

Where is Hotpot from?

Hot pot, a beloved culinary tradition in China, boasts a rich history spanning over two thousand years. Its origins can be traced back to the ancient Shang and Zhou dynasties (approximately 1600-256 BC), where the first rudimentary form of hot pot emerged. During the Three Kingdoms period (220-280), the iconic copper pot, now synonymous with hot pot, made its debut, marking a significant milestone in the evolution of this delectable cuisine.

Several theories surround the origins of hotpot. One suggests it evolved from the nomadic cooking practices of the Mongols, who used helmets as makeshift pots to simmer meat and vegetables over open fires. Another theory posits that hotpot originated from communal cooking practices in temples and public spaces.

Regardless of its inception, hot pot quickly captivated the Chinese palate and led to diverse regional adaptations. 

Today, hot pot transcends borders and is relished worldwide. It has become a cherished dish for family gatherings and celebrations and is a popular restaurant choice.

How to Make Hotpot

Creating an exquisite hotpot requires a delicate balance of flavors, textures, and aromas. Here's a step-by-step guide to crafting the perfect hotpot:

1. Choosing the Right Broth

The foundation of any great hotpot lies in its broth. Common varieties include spicy and clear broths, each offering a distinct taste profile. The spicy broth, infused with chili peppers and aromatic spices, adds a fiery kick, while the clear broth, simmered with herbs and vegetables, provides a subtle, refreshing flavor.

2. Preparing Ingredients

Select an array of fresh ingredients, such as thinly sliced beef, tender lamb, plump shrimp, and an assortment of mushrooms, leafy greens, and noodles. Arrange them meticulously, ensuring a vibrant mix of colors and textures.

3. Seasoning Secrets

Elevate the flavors by offering a selection of dipping sauces. Popular choices include sesame sauce, soy sauce, garlic oil, and chili paste. Encourage diners to experiment, creating their signature blend of flavors.

4. Temperature and Timing

Maintain precise control over the hotpot's temperature. Ingredients like thinly sliced meat require mere seconds to cook, ensuring they remain tender. Heartier vegetables and noodles may need more time to soak in the flavors of the broth.

What to Put in Hotpot

In a hot pot restaurant, choosing the right ingredients is crucial to creating a delightful dining experience for your customers. Here's a comprehensive list of items that you can include in your hotpot menu:

Meat and Seafood:

  • Thinly sliced beef, pork, and chicken

  • Sliced lamb

  • Fish balls, shrimp balls, and fish cakes

  • Squid, cuttlefish, and scallops

  • Shrimp

Tofu and Soy Bean Products:

  • Tofu (regular, fried, or silken)

  • Tofu puffs

  • Yuba (tofu skin)

  • Soybean sprouts


  • Enoki mushrooms

  • Shiitake mushrooms

  • Straw mushrooms

  • Wood ear mushrooms

Leafy Greens:

  • Bok choy

  • Napa cabbage

  • Watercress

  • Chrysanthemum greens

  • Spinach

Other Vegetables:

  • Carrots

  • Potatoes

  • Daikon

  • Lotus root

  • Broccoli

  • Cauliflower

Noodles and Dumplings:

  • Rice noodles

  • Wheat noodles

  • Dumplings (shrimp, pork, chive, etc.)

Dipping Sauces and Condiments:

  • Soy sauce

  • Sesame oil

  • Chili oil

  • Hoisin sauce

When creating your hotpot menu, consider offering a variety of broths such as beef broth, chicken broth, and spicy broth. You can customize your menu based on customer preferences and regional tastes. 

Remember to experiment with different combinations to create unique and exciting hotpot offerings. With endless possibilities, your hotpot restaurant can cater to a wide range of tastes and preferences, ensuring a memorable dining experience for your customers.

How Does Hotpot Work?

Understanding the science behind hotpot ensures each ingredient is cooked to perfection, releasing its full flavor potential. Let's delve into the intricacies of hotpot cooking:

1. Cooking Process

Hotpot operates on the principle of simmering ingredients in a communal pot. The bubbling broth infuses every element, creating a harmonious blend of flavors. Diners use chopsticks or ladles to cook their chosen ingredients, customizing their dining experience.

2. Temperature Control

Maintaining the ideal temperature is crucial. A rolling boil is perfect for heartier ingredients, while a gentle simmer ensures delicate items like seafood remain tender. Modern hotpot establishments often provide individual induction cookers for precise temperature control.

3. Timing is Everything

Different ingredients require varying cooking times. Educate your diners about these nuances, enabling them to make informed choices. For instance, thinly sliced beef cooks within seconds, while root vegetables may need a few minutes to soften.

Hotpot Soup Types — Spicy and Clear

Hotpot broths come in two main varieties: spicy and clear. Each type offers a unique dining experience, catering to different flavor preferences.

Spicy Broth:

Spicy broth, a hallmark of Sichuan and Chongqing hotpot, is a fiery concoction infused with chili peppers, Sichuan peppercorns, and various spices. It boasts a bold and numbing heat that tingles the taste buds, leaving a lasting impression. Spicy hotpot is not just a meal; it's a culinary adventure, challenging diners to embrace the heat and savor the robust flavors of the broth.

Clear Broth:

Clear broth, on the other hand, is a delicate and flavorful base that allows the natural tastes of the ingredients to shine. Made by simmering bones, aromatics, and vegetables, clear broth provides a comforting backdrop for the diverse array of meats, seafood, and vegetables. Its subtle yet robust flavor enhances the overall hotpot experience, offering a soothing contrast to the spicy alternative.

What Do You Need for Hotpot?

Setting the stage for a memorable hotpot experience involves more than just choosing the right ingredients. Here's a comprehensive list of essentials you'll need to create an authentic and enjoyable hotpot meal:

Hotpot Pot: Invest in a high-quality hotpot pot, preferably one with a divided section to accommodate spicy and clear broths. Choose a pot size that suits the number of diners you plan to serve.

Burner or Induction Cooktop: Ensure you have a reliable heat source, be it a gas burner or induction cooktop, to keep the broth simmering throughout the meal. Adjustable heat settings allow diners to control the intensity of the simmering broth.

Broth Ingredients: If you prefer homemade broth, gather bones (such as beef or chicken bones), aromatics (like ginger, garlic, and green onions), and spices (such as star anise and cinnamon) to create a flavorful base. Alternatively, you can opt for pre-made broth bases available in stores.

Meats, Seafood, Vegetables, and Noodles: Select a variety of fresh meats (beef, lamb, pork), seafood (shrimp, fish, squid), vegetables (mushrooms, bok choy, lotus root), and noodles (rice noodles, udon, glass noodles) to cater to different tastes.

Dipping Sauces: Prepare an assortment of dipping sauces, including soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and chili paste. You can also offer pre-made sauces for convenience.

Utensils: Provide long-handled utensils like chopsticks and ladles for easy handling of ingredients in the hotpot. Additionally, offer individual strainers or small baskets to retrieve cooked ingredients from the pot.

Tableware: Set the table with bowls, plates, and utensils for each diner. Provide individual bowls for dipping sauces, ensuring a hygienic dining experience.

Beverages: Offer a selection of beverages, both hot and cold, to complement the hotpot meal. Green tea, soft drinks, and beer are popular choices among diners.

What is a Hotpot Restaurant?

A hotpot restaurant, also known as a steamboat restaurant in some regions, is a type of dining establishment that specializes in serving hotpot dishes. Hotpot is a popular and interactive dining experience commonly found in East Asian countries, especially China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, but it has also gained popularity in other parts of the world.

The central concept of a hotpot restaurant involves a simmering pot of broth or stock placed at the center of the dining table. The broth is usually flavored with various herbs, spices, and ingredients to create a rich and flavorful base. Customers then select from a variety of raw ingredients, such as thinly sliced meat (often beef or lamb), seafood, vegetables, mushrooms, tofu, noodles, and dumplings, which they cook in the simmering broth at their table.

What Makes a Hotpot Restaurant Special?

Exceptional hotpot restaurants share common traits that elevate them from ordinary to extraordinary. Here's what sets them apart:

1. Fresh and High-Quality Ingredients: The foundation of any great hotpot experience is the quality of ingredients. Exceptional hotpot restaurants prioritize freshness, sourcing the finest meats, seafood, and vegetables to ensure a superior dining experience.

2. Innovative Broth Flavors: While traditional broths have their charm, outstanding hotpot restaurants are not afraid to experiment with innovative flavors. Whether it's a truffle-infused clear broth or a daringly spicy ghost pepper concoction, unique broths add excitement to the dining adventure.

3. Attention to Dietary Needs: Accommodating diverse dietary needs, such as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or halal options, demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity. A thoughtful menu that caters to various preferences ensures that everyone can savor the hotpot experience.

4. Impeccable Hygiene: Maintaining a high standard of cleanliness and hygiene is non-negotiable in the restaurant industry, especially in hotpot establishments where diners handle raw ingredients. Regular sanitation, proper handling of food, and adherence to safety protocols are paramount.

5. Exceptional Customer Service: Exceptional service goes beyond politeness, anticipating diners' needs and providing a seamless, enjoyable dining experience. Knowledgeable staff who can guide diners through the menu, recommend pairings, and assist with cooking techniques contribute to the restaurant's appeal.

6. Innovative Presentation: The visual appeal of a hotpot spread adds to the overall dining pleasure. Creative presentation, such as arranging ingredients in aesthetically pleasing patterns or using artistic plating techniques, enhances the dining experience and creates Instagram-worthy moments.

7. Embracing Restaurant Technology: Implementing cutting-edge restaurant technology, such as a restaurant POS system, can significantly enhance the efficiency and overall experience for both customers and staff. Tablet ordering systems allow diners to browse the menu, customize their orders, and make secure payments directly from their tables. QR code menus provide a touchless dining experience, reducing physical contact with printed menus. Reservation and waitlist management systems streamline the booking process, ensuring optimal table turnover and minimizing wait times. Additionally, incorporating innovative solutions like the Rutech robot for food delivery can add a futuristic touch to the dining experience, delighting customers and generating buzz for your hotpot restaurant.

Varieties of Hotpot

Hotpot, a popular dining experience in many Asian countries, comes in various regional styles and flavors. Here are some of the different types of hotpot:

1. Sichuan Hotpot (Chuan Chuan Xiang):

Broth: Typically characterized by spicy and numbing flavors, Sichuan hotpot broths feature ingredients like Sichuan peppercorns, dried chilies, and various spices. There are also non-spicy options available.

Ingredients: Sichuan hotpot includes a variety of thinly sliced meats (beef, lamb, and pork), vegetables, mushrooms, and tofu. It's known for its wide selection of dipping sauces.

Signature Dish: Beef slices dipped in a spicy Sichuan broth.

2. Mongolian Hotpot (Shuan Yang Rou):

Broth: Mongolian hotpot broths are often mild and clear. They emphasize the natural flavors of the ingredients.

Ingredients: Thinly sliced lamb or mutton is a common choice for Mongolian hotpot. Vegetables, mushrooms, and noodles are also popular.

Signature Dish: Slices of lamb cooked in a mild, flavorful broth.

3. Taiwanese Hotpot (Ma La Tang):

Broth: Taiwanese hotpot offers a range of broths, including spicy and non-spicy options. It may feature ingredients like herbs, sesame, and garlic.

Ingredients: Various meats, seafood, vegetables, and noodles are commonly found in Taiwanese hotpots. The emphasis is on customization and dipping sauces.

Signature Dish: A customizable hotpot with your choice of ingredients.

4. Japanese Shabu-Shabu:

Broth: Shabu-shabu features clear, savory broths like kombu (seaweed) or bonito (fish) dashi. It's known for its simplicity and emphasis on natural flavors.

Ingredients: Thinly sliced beef or pork, along with vegetables like napa cabbage and mushrooms, are popular in shabu-shabu. Dipping sauces may include ponzu and sesame sauce.

Signature Dish: Thinly sliced meat cooked by swishing it in the hot broth (the term "shabu-shabu" refers to the swishing sound).

5. Korean Budae Jjigae (Army Stew):

Broth: Budae jjigae is a Korean hotpot dish that combines spicy gochujang (red pepper paste) broth with various ingredients.

Ingredients: It includes a mix of meats (such as spam, sausage, and tofu), vegetables, and ramen noodles. It originated during the Korean War when ingredients were scarce.

Signature Dish: A spicy stew featuring a combination of ingredients.

6. Thai Sukiyaki:

Broth: Thai sukiyaki typically features a clear, sweet, and savory broth with a hint of spiciness from chili sauce.

Ingredients: Thinly sliced meat (often chicken or pork), seafood, vegetables, and glass noodles are common ingredients. It's known for its sweet and tangy dipping sauce.

Signature Dish: A sweet and savory hotpot with a Thai twist.

7. Yunnan Hotpot (Crossing the Bridge Noodles):

Broth: Yunnan hotpot is famous for its rich and aromatic chicken or pork broth.

Ingredients: It features a wide range of ingredients, including rice noodles, thinly sliced meats, and various vegetables. The ingredients are added sequentially to the simmering broth.

Signature Dish: Crossing the Bridge Noodles, where ingredients are added one by one to the hot broth, creating a unique dining experience.


Hotpot is more than just a meal—it's a communal adventure that brings people together to savor the flavors of diverse ingredients and enjoy the warmth of shared moments. By understanding its roots, mastering the art of preparation, and embracing the elements that make a hotpot restaurant exceptional, you can create a dining experience that leaves a lasting impression on your patrons. 

So, whether you're a hotpot enthusiast exploring the culinary world or a restaurateur aspiring to establish a hotpot haven, remember that the key to a remarkable hotpot experience lies in the perfect balance of tradition, innovation, and impeccable hospitality.

Ready to elevate your hotpot restaurant business to new heights? Take the first step towards success by booking a free demo/consultation with Chowbus POS today. Our innovative solutions are designed to streamline your operations, enhance customer experiences, and boost your business growth. 

Discover how Chowbus POS can empower your hotpot restaurant with cutting-edge technology and personalized support!

All-in one Hardware

Frequently Asked Questions About Hotpot

Explore our FAQ section to learn everything you need to know about this popular culinary tradition. From understanding its Chinese origins to ensuring safe restaurant practices and clarifying common misconceptions like drinking hotpot soup, we've got you covered.

What is Hotpot in Chinese?

In Chinese, hotpot is written as "火锅" (huǒguō), where "火" (huǒ) means fire and "锅" (guō) means pot. This cooking style has gained international popularity and is enjoyed by people worldwide, especially during cold weather, as the warm and spicy broth provides a comforting and satisfying dining experience.

What Safety Measures Should Be Taken When Serving Hotpot at a Restaurant?

  • Proper Ingredient Handling

  • Hygiene and Cleanliness

  • Temperature Control

  • Allergen Awareness

  • Proper Ventilation

  • Staff Training

  • Customer Awareness

By following these safety measures, your restaurant can provide a delightful and secure hotpot dining experience for your customers, enhancing their satisfaction and loyalty.

Is it OK to Drink Hotpot Soup?

Yes, it is absolutely acceptable to drink hotpot soup. In fact, many hot pot enthusiasts enjoy sipping the flavorful broth after cooking their ingredients. Drinking the soup not only enhances the overall dining experience but also allows customers to relish the rich blend of spices and ingredients used in the preparation.

Recommended Articles: