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Spicy Hotpot

This is a mouth-tingling, numbing hotpot! The spicy soup stock base is a delicious broth in which fresh ingredients are poached - like a Chinese fondue. The Mandarin word for such a feast is 'Huo-guo', meaning 'hotpot', because all the ingredients are cooked in a hotpot! I love this kind of feast, it is easy to prepare, and is great for interaction with friends. All you need is an electric wok or fondue set up in the centre of the table and plenty of soup ladles and away you go. I had this dish in Chengdu in the middle of summer and it was fantastic. Be warned - this is extremely spicy.
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr 20 min
  • Prep: 1 hr
  • Cook: 20 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
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Spicy Soup Base

2 tablespoons groundnut oil (peanut)

3 to 4 long dried Sichuan chiles or long dried chiles

2 ounces whole Sichuan peppercorns

1 tablespoon chile bean sauce*

1 tablespoon chile sauce

6 cups hot vegetable stock

2 star anise

6 dried Chinese mushrooms or 6 dried shiitake or porcini mushrooms

1 small handful dried orange peel or the zest of 1 orange

9 ounces chile oil

1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled

2 medium red chiles, seeded and sliced 


9 ounces (MSG free) fish balls 

1 large spring onion, coarsely chopped

1 small handful Chinese cabbage leaves, sliced 1-inch thick

1 small handful deep-fried tofu  

1 small handful fresh tofu, cut into 1-inch chunks

Vinegar, Chile and Soy Dipping Sauce

3 tablespoons black rice vinegar (recommended) or balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 red chile, seeded and finely chopped 

Special Taiwanese Dipping Sauce (1 serving)

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon Oriental satay sauce* or barbeque sauce

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1 tablespoon finely sliced spring onions (green)

For assembly

9 ounces (MSG-free) fish cake, sliced 

Baby corn, as needed*

Raw lamb, thinly sliced, as needed

Raw prawns or shrimp, shelled and deveined, as needed

Firm tofu, cut into chunks, as needed

Enoki mushrooms, as needed


Special equipment:
electric wok or fondue pot
  1. For the soup base: 
  2. Heat a 3 1/2 pint capacity wok over a high heat, and add the groundnut oil. Stir-fry the chiles and Sichuan peppercorns until fragrant. Add the chile bean sauce, and chile sauce, then pour in the stock. Add the star anise, mushrooms, orange peel, chile oil, and ginger, and bring everything to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Ten minutes before serving, stir in the chiles.
  3. For the hotpot: 
  4. Whilst the stock is simmering, divide all the fish balls, spring onions, cabbage, deep-fried tofu, and fresh tofu on 4 serving plates, cover with plastic wrap, and chill them in the refrigerator. 
  5. For the soy dipping sauce: 
  6. Combine the black vinegar, soy sauce, and chiles in a bowl, and set the sauce aside. 
  7. For the special dipping sauce: 
  8. Let each guest prepare their own Taiwanese dipping sauce at the table. In a small bowl, stir to combine, the egg yolk, satay sauce, cilantro, and spring onions.* 
  9. For the assembly: 
  10. To serve, arrange all the ingredients on the table. Transfer the soup base to an electric wok or fondue pot, and set it up in the center of the table. Let the guests help themselves, and cook the raw ingredients in the spicy broth. Serve with both dipping sauces.

Cook’s Note

*Can be found at specialty Asian markets. Make sure you have plenty of utensils for the raw ingredients at the table, and let your guests use those to add anything into the stockpot - this reduces the chance of cross contamination from the raw ingredients and your guests' serving plates.

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