Soup is a lot of things. It's comforting, warming - but no one ever describes it as fun. It can be, and since "playing with your food" is an instant ice-breaker at dinner parties, why not have a hot pot night?
It's easier than you think. In fact, zero cooking is necessary - just a little prep work. Aside from the central simmering pot, guests are seated around a table of raw food. No having to time out dishes in the oven!
Popular in Asian culture, a hot pot is simply a simmering pot in the center of a communal table, where thinly-sliced meats, vegetables and noodles are boiled and enjoyed with a variety of dipping sauces. The Japanese version of this is called shabu-shabu, but it's huge in China too. Everyone has their own bowl, and guests can make themselves a variety of mini-bowls, with no two tasting alike.
To prep, fill a variety of bowls and dishes with raw, thinly-sliced meat, sliced vegetables (scallions, shitake mushrooms, shredded cabbage, etc.), raw rice noodles, and a variety of sauces, such as sesame oil, Sriracha, soy sauce; any Asian-centric sauces you love. For the bowl of broth itself, you can buy hot pot flavor packets at your local Asian grocery store. The guests do all of the cooking, and it's done communally around the pot over great conversation. It's a winter meal that truy brings people together, as evidenced below.
The best hot sauce in the world will take everything up a notch. Try Lao Gan Ma.
They also happen to make a great broth flavor pack for your hot pot, so you may as well stick with this brand!
Give everyone chopsticks and kanji, or a deep Asian soup spoon. Make it an immersive experience.
Chopped garlic, always.
While at the Asian grocery store, grab a bag of dehydrated mushrooms. These rare varieties have a great depth of flavor.
We visited the land of shabu shabu, and it was tasty tasty. Yours will be too!