Hot pot is the traditional Chinese meal enjoyed around a large pot of flavorful seasoned boiling broth, used to cook various ingredients of each guest’s preferences.
Hot pot broth is usually prepared to be spicy or mild and can be served in a pot with a divider providing both options to the table. But what is hot pot broth made of?
Hot pot broth contains a concentrated and flavorful soup base and water. Hong You Guo Di, or red oil hot pot broth, comes from Sichuan and is the most popular flavor of hot pot broth.
Alternatively, clear and mild broth, or Qing Tang Guo Di, made of bone broth, aromatics, and herbs, is a well-loved soup option for hot pot.
Hot pot broth is made traditionally using spices, aromatics, herbs, and bones from chicken, beef, or pork simmered over a medium-low flame for an extended period and then strained when finished.
Homemade broth and restaurant broth for hot pot are generally made the same way, with essential ingredients giving the robust soup flavor and plenty of spice. Since hot pot gets its taste from the various herbs and bones used to make it, the broth used to cook your favorite ingredients is bursting with layers of complex flavor.
Two types of broth are most commonly used when making hot pot; mild broth and spicy broth. Clear broth, or Qing Tang Guo Di, is made with chicken, beef, pork bones, ginger, scallions, and sometimes dried shiitake mushrooms or Chinese dates.
Spicy broth, or Hong You Guo, is the classic Sichuan-style broth used in making hot pot. Also known as red oil broth, the spicy broth is made from chilies, Sichuan peppercorns, Sichuan chili bean paste, aromatics, and beef fat or vegetable oil.
The spicy hot pot broth is often made with a concentrated soup base mix instead of adding all the ingredients separately.
Depending on your preference for spiciness, hot pot broth can range from being extremely mild with a light, flavorful, and basic broth that takes on more of the flavors of whatever is cooked in it to a very spicy, aromatic, and earthy flavor with the addition of strong spices.
The clear or mild broth that has been made with simple ingredients and not a ton of spice tends to take on the flavor of all of the components that have been cooked in it throughout the hot pot dining experience. If you are less likely to enjoy spicy foods and want to build flavor with added ingredients, this is the soup base for you.
For those daring enough to experience a spicy and tingling flavor sensation, known as mala, the Sichuan word for “numbingly spicy”, spicy red hot pot broth is the right choice for your hot pot.
The combination of Sichuan chilies and Sichuan peppercorns gives the broth a fiery burn followed by a numbing and tingling sensation enjoyed by many.
Can You Drink Hot Pot Soup?
Once everyone has finished cooking and enjoying their food in the hot pot, use a ladle to scoop a few spoonfuls of well-seasoned and delicious hot pot broth into your bowl and enjoy the many flavors added to the soup.
After cooking all of your ingredients, the leftover soup will be tasty and hot. If you have enjoyed the Qing Tang Guo Di, or clear broth, it has likely taken on a good amount of flavor from the ingredients, and it will be even more delicious than before. If you have been using the Hong You Guo, or spicy broth, for cooking your food while eating hot pot, it is less likely that the broth has taken on flavor from anything.
The intense spicy flavors of the Hong You Guo become stronger over time while enjoying hot pot as the liquids evaporate, and the spices condense, creating a spice bomb at the end of the meal. If you choose to drink the spicy hot pot soup when you are done cooking, remember that it will be spicier than it was at the beginning of your meal.
You can save hot pot broth for up to one week without any ingredients left floating in it, or freeze it in an airtight container for up to 3 months to prevent freezer burn or contamination of the broth.
Once finished enjoying cooking your food in the hot pot broth, spoon it into a food-safe container and allow it to cool slightly before placing it in the refrigerator. If you are freezing the soup base, allow it to cool completely in an airtight container before placing it in the freezer for future use.
It is not recommended to store starchy ingredients such as potatoes or noodles in the broth because they will absorb the liquid, leaving you with little to no broth and a mushy mess of starch. Keep these leftover items in a separate container in the refrigerator to be heated up and enjoyed later.
Depending on the broth you have used in your hot pot, don’t be so quick to dump the leftover broth down the sink, mainly if it contains lots of leftover fats that could clog your drain and cause problems in your pipes.
If you are making hot pot at home, you have a couple of options for disposing of the leftover soup base that you do not want to save. If you have a garbage disposal, dump the soup leftovers, followed by a good amount of hot water, down the disposal and run it for a minute or two.
If it is cold enough out, leave the leftover broth in a pot outside your backdoor and allow the fat from the broth to harden, leaving a layer of fat that is easily scooped into a garbage bag and thrown away. The remainder of the broth can be strained into the sink or dumped down the garbage disposal for easy disposal.
If you cannot dispose of your soup by either of these options, use a large, durable garbage bag to dump the leftover liquid into before placing it in the garbage can.