Introducing the Hot Pot (Huo Guo)
Hot Pot, or Huoguo, is probably the most popular food with the local Beijingers. Typical Hot Pot dishes include thinly sliced meat, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, egg dumplings and seafood. The cooked food is usually eaten with a dipping sesame sauce. Some have claimed that the Hot Pot tradition had its origin from Mongolia. Although there is little historical evidence to support this, including the fact that Hot Pot is not a part of Mongolian cuisine but rather Chinese cuisine. Another more likely claim of origin is from near the Sichuan province of China, more specifically, the Ba region surrounding the municipality of Chongqing. The Chinese Hot Pot boasts a history of more than 1,000 years. Both the preparation method and the required equipment are unknown in the cuisine of Mongolia now. Due to the complexity and specialization of the utensils and the method of eating it, Hot Pot cooking is much better suited to a sedentary culture. A nomadic household will avoid such highly specialized tools, to save volume and weight during migration. Hot Pot cooking seems to have spread to northern China during the Tang Dynasty (618-906). In time, regional variations developed with different ingredients such as seafood. By the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the Hot Pot became popular throughout China. Today in many modern homes, particularly in the big cities, the traditional coal-heated Hot Pot has been replaced by electric or gas versions. Because Hot Pot styles vary so much from region to region, many different ingredients are being used.
Frozen meat is sliced thin to cause it to roll up during cooking. Meats used include lamb, beef, chicken, and others. The cooking pot is often sunk into the table and fueled by propane, or alternatively is above the table and fueled by a portable butane gas stove or hot coals. Meat or vegetables are loaded individually into the hot cooking broth by chopsticks, and cooking time is brief. Meat often takes only 15 to 30 seconds to cook. There are often disagreements between different styles of Hot Pot enthusiasts. Some like to place items into the hot pot at a relaxed, leisurely pace, enjoying the cooking process; while others prefer to throw everything in at one time and wait for the Hot Pot to return to a boil.