With the Lunar New Year around the corner, it’s time for the annual reunion dinner with the family. And it’s hard to go wrong with a hot pot, or lau.
A form of communal dining, hot pots consist of a pot of simmering broth in the centre of the table surrounded by raw ingredients. Dinner is cooked by placing a variety of raw vegetables, meat and seafood into the pot. Diners fish out the food they like and eat it with a dipping sauce.
Originating in Mongolia over 1,000 years ago, the hot pot dinner has since spread across Asia. In the past, hot pots were made and kept heated with charcoal fires or portable gas stoves. These days, portable induction cookers are commonly used to make hot pot dinners a more convenient affair.
The use of electricity ensures that you’ll generate constant heat, while precise touch controls let you boil or simmer the soup as needed. Induction cookers are also safer than the naked flames of gas or charcoal cookers, so it’s safe for children at the table.
Here are a few ideas to give your Lunar New Year dinners a different flavour.
Mala Huo Guo
A popular hot pot from China, Mala Huo Guo literally means ‘numbing spicy hot pot’. A Mala sauce is made with dried chilli peppers, chilli powder, chilli bean paste, Sichuan peppercorns, clove, garlic, star anise, black cardamom, fennel, ginger, cinnamon, salt and sugar. Ingredients are simmered with beef tallow and vegetable oil for many hours, which is how the broth gets its distinctive layer of oil.
As the Mala broth imparts a strong flavour to the ingredients, it’s common to eat Mala with white rice to mitigate the intense spiciness of the food.
Lau Canh Chua
Translated into ‘sour soup hot pot’, Lau Canh Chua is a sour soup from the Mekong Delta with tamarind juice, pineapple, sugar, tomatoes, bean sprouts and marrowbone or fish. It is garnished with caramelised garlic, scallions, coriander, basil and okra. A main ingredient such as meat or seafood is ordered and eaten with fish sauce. Rice noodles, or bun, vegetables, tofu and mushrooms are also commonly served with the hot pot.
Literally ‘swish swish’ in Japanese, the shabu-shabu hot pot is named after the sound of ingredients being swished around in the pot using just boiling water or a fish stock called dashi. Thinly-sliced beef is the primary ingredient cooked in a shabu-shabu. The cooked food is dipped in ponzu or sesame sauce before being eaten with white rice.
Elizabeth Png is the retail and consumer business director at Hafele Vietnam. She can be contacted at