A Beginners Guide on How to Eat and Order Chinese Hot Pot

Your Super Simple Guide to Chinese Hot Pot

Chinese hot pot (火锅 huǒguō) literally “fire-pot”, with it’s history of over 1000 years, is one of the most traditional and popular meals in China and is a great way to chat, laugh and drink in a big group over delicious food.

The concept is very simple – a simmering metal pot with broth boils at the centre of a table and people can add and cook all the raw ingredients they like in the broth.

What makes hotpot so popular?

chinese hotpot
Hot Pot in Chinese is 火锅: “Fire Pot”

It’s not just the fact you get to cook and to eat what you like as you please, but also, you get to do this while socialising, chatting, drinking and having fun with your friends and family.

The tradition makes experiencing hot pot cuisine quite something for foreigners where the meal can last hours with food and drink relentlessly brought to the table.

Be prepared!

Going to a hotpot place can be a lot of fun, but it can be also confusing for foreigners, especially when you don’t have a Chinese friend to help you…

Follow these 5 tips of our HOTPOT Guide and you will enjoy your hotpot night as natives do!

China Hot Pot Guide – Tip #1 || What to Order

China Hot Pot Guide – Tip #2 || Which Sauce to Choose

China Hot Pot Guide – Tip #3 || Which Ingredients to Put in First

China Hot Pot Guide – Tip #4 || How to Eat Chinese Hot Pot

China Hot Pot Guide – Tip #5 || How to Finish Your Meal

BONUS || Useful Hot Pot Vocab

Chinese Hot Pot || FAQs

Chinese Hot Pot Tip #1 || What to Order

Hot Pot in China
Hot Pot in China

Checking the hotpot menu can be very complicated for a foreigner.

The best things to get are all the ingredients that can give your broth a delicious flavour.

Lamb and beef are the best types of hot pot meat you can put in the pot cause they will give the soup a delicious taste.

We also suggest mushrooms, fish balls, crabs, and shrimps. Also, tofu and potatoes are highly recommended cause they will absorb the flavours of all the ingredients and they will taste great.

Make sure you order some hot pot vegetables too (Chinese cabbage, lettuce, bean sprouts, daikon, pumpkin etc… And… Don’t forget to get some noodles too!

Not sure how to order from a Chinese menu?

No problem, save our handy cheat-sheet below or check out our “how to order from a Chinese menu” article.

The picture you can see above is from China’s most famous hot pot restaurant called Hǎi Dǐ Lāo Huǒ Guō (海底捞火锅).

Famed for their speedy and polite service, this is a brilliant place to eat, socialise, drink and experience one of China’s great traditions.

Chinese Hot Pot Tip #2 || Which Sauce to Choose

When eating hotpot, choosing the right sauces are the key… The thing is, there’s not only one “right” recipe, it all depends on your taste!

One of the most ancient recipes include 3 parts of sesame sauce and one part of chives.

Of course, you can choose whether to make your own sauce or to use the traditional one as a base and add chilli, spicy or soy sauce, minced garlic, crushed chilli peppers, cilantro, scallion etc … it’s totally up to you.

If you choose a spicy soup, then make sure the sauce is not too spicy too, cause once you take your food from the pot and you dip it in the sauce you don’t want to have your mouth on fire!

The sauce selection at Chinese Hot Pot is vast and delicious
The sauce selection at Chinese Hot Pot is vast and delicious

Chinese Hot Pot Tip #3 || Which Ingredients to Put in First

As you can imagine with hot pot, the first things to put in are all those ingredients that take longer to cook such as potatoes, corn, pumpkin, radish, and daikon.

Of course, always put cabbage, lettuce, and spinach last.

TOP TIP | Are you a veggie? Don’t worry, just because there is plenty of meat typically, you can still enjoy hotpot just as much as the meat eaters.

It’s becoming more common that parties split into two – the meat eaters and the veggies so they can share hotpots on bigger tables!

Win win!

Chinese Hot Pot - Catherine's Experience Thumbnail

Chinese Hot Pot – Catherine’s Experience

Chinese Hot Pot Experience – Angelina organised a group of students and staff to go out together to a near-by restaurant famous for Hot Pot dinner

Chinese Hot Pot Tip #4 || How to Eat Chinese Hot Pot

Here the rule is: as you please.

You can throw everything in or cook the things you want to eat, eat them and then add more.

It’s totally up to you.

The only thing you should pay attention to is to slowly put the ingredients in the pot in order to not splash people around you with hot water.

A selection of Chinese hot pot meats and vegetables surround the table
A selection of Chinese hot pot meats and vegetables surround the table

Chinese Hot Pot Tip #5 || How to Finish Your Meal

As we said, eating hot pot cuisine is about socializing, so a hotpot night usually lasts more than two hours.

When you’ve already eaten all the food you wanted, make sure you drink some of the delicious soup you made… it will taste great!

Before and after hotpot it would be better to coat your stomach with dairy drinks such as yogurt or fermented milk drinks.

We hope you enjoy your hotpot experience.

Do you have any stories about eating hot pot in China? Drop us a comment below and tell us about it 🙂

Check out two of our students, Tobias and Mikkel going for hotpot with their homestay family in Taiwan.

Have you even been for Chinese hot pot before? Does your country also enjoy hot pot at all?

Tell us in the comments below – we’d love to hear from you.

Chinese Hot Pot || BONUS VOCAB

We wouldn’t be a very good school if we didn’t teach you some useful words whilst we were here!

Here are some words you’ll be needing for your hotpot experience.

EnglishPinyinHanzi
Broccolixī lán hu西兰花
Chilli Pepperlà jiāo辣椒
Garlicdà suàn大蒜
Mushroomsmó gu蘑菇
Potatotǔ dòu土豆
Spinachbō cài菠菜
Tomatoxī hóng shì西红柿
Vegetablesshū cài蔬菜
Souptāng
Beefniú ròu牛肉
Lambyáng ròu羊肉
Saucejiàng

BONUS | If you are coming to study Mandarin with LTL, it’s very common we go out for hotpot together, we’ll show you the full experience!

Chinese Hot Pot || FAQs

What is Hotpot in Chinese?

火锅 huǒguō which is literally fire pot.

What is the most famous brand of hotpot in China?

China’s most famous hot pot restaurant is called Hǎi Dǐ Lāo Huǒ Guō (海底捞火锅)

Can vegetarians eat hotpot?

Yes absolutely!

There are plenty of veggie ingredients and in many situations, if you have a party of many people you can order one pot for veggies and another for the meat eats.

Is hotpot popular all year round?

It is indeed.

Even in the hot summer months hotpot is a tradition that Chinese love to indulge in all year round, but the cold winter months certainly bring a spike in visitors!

Where can I find hotpot in London

For the most authentic experience go to Hai Di Lao in central London.

海底捞火锅 is China’s most famed hot pot export and is an experience as well as a meal out!

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