My husband says I always find a way to turn eating into cooking. Like, whenever there's a brunch spread, I make little sandwiches out of the various dishes and fixings. If we're having waffles, scrambled eggs, and bacon, then I'm having a waffle breakfast sandwich. When we're having dinner and there are condiment options, I tend to go a bit overboard. My delivery pizza gets covered in a mountain of parmesan, crushed red pepper, and dried oregano, and if they included more options, it would be topped with more of whatever else they sent along in little paper packets. I don't even think my meddling makes the food better half the time—it's more of a nervous habit or a tendency. I just like playing with my food. And that's why I absolutely love hot pot, because this kind of behavior is actually encouraged.
Since I posted a kibbeh recipe a few days ago, I thought it would be fun to do a Middle Eastern inspired hot pot, with a bunch of traditional Chinese ingredients, and a few Middle Eastern and Mediterranean takes. This menu has got many of the usual ingredients: sweet potatoes, watercress, tomatoes, mushrooms, thinly sliced beef, and noodles. But instead of Chinese dumplings, I've included my aunt Masy's kbeibat (farina dumplings stuffed with ground beef). And instead of tofu, I've opted for halloumi cheese. The kbeibat becomes super flavorful from the broth, and the halloumi softens beautifully after a few minutes of simmering, but never quite melts.
If you're thinking of hosting a hot pot night, you should first check out Shao Z.'s thorough Chinese-style hot pot guide on Serious Eats. As she writes, "The concept of hot pot is simple. You set a pot of simmering broth on a portable burner in the middle of the table. Around it are plates of meat, seafood, and vegetables, all prepped and ready to be cooked in the broth." But while it's simple, there's a lot of important hot pot logistics and etiquette, and a long list of possible ingredients to choose from. I'll cover a few of the basics in my recipe below, but you should absolutely read her article, which includes a lot more of these details.
The one specialized piece of equipment you really absolutely need to hot pot at home is a portable burner. Induction burners have actually become relatively affordable, and you can find reasonably priced ones online (mine was $35 US!), or you could go with an electric hot plate, which is much more budget-friendly. While it would be kind of crazy to buy a portable cooktop just to use it once, they're also really handy to have around for glamping, as well as shooting overhead Tasty-style cooking videos (and of course, for all your future hot pot nights!).
kibbeh hot pot
First, read Shao Z.'s thorough Chinese-style hot pot guide on Serious Eats to learn more about hot pot logistics and etiquette.
A portable burner
1 or 2 spider strainers, or slotted spoons
Chop sticks for each guest, and a few extras for fishing out ingredients
menu and cook times
Frozen kbeibat (about 7 minutes)
Halloumi cheese * (3 to 10 minutes, up to your preference, and careful it doesn't stick to the bottom)
Your favorite mushrooms (2 to 5 minutes)
Cherry tomatoes (1 to 3 minutes)
Watercress, or your favorite green (1 to 3 minutes)
Sweet potatoes (4 to 5 minutes)
Thinly sliced beef (1 minute)
Your favorite noodles ** (check the package instructions)
Your favorite hot pot base **
Soy sauce dipping sauce, optionally with a few of your favorite spices and ingredients (see Serious Eats) *
* Haloumi can be found in most well-stocked supermarkets.
** These 2 ingredients, as well as most of the others, can be found in Asian supermarkets.
Make and freeze the kibbeh a couple days in advance.
Wash all the veggies.
Cut the halloumi and sweet potatoes into cubes.
Place everything on plates (ingredients can share plates, but put the raw meat on its own).
Crack a window and turn on your exhaust if you've got one, or else the room will get super humid. I also turn on our dehumidifier.
Set up the burner in the middle of the table and set the table with chopsticks at each place setting, and spider strainers with additional chopsticks in convenient places.
Fill a small stock pot with the hot pot soup base and as much water as the package instructions call for. Bring it to a simmer on the portable burner, and place all the plates of food around the burner.
While you're waiting for it to come to a boil, explain the basics of hot pot to your guests, and give everyone approximate cook times for each food (listed above).