Most food historians agree the history of hot pot dates at least that far back when the Jin Dynasty reigned in China. The origins of hot pot can be traced to Mongolian horsemen who traveled into China. Weary and hungry, the men supposedly cooked soups in their helmets over open fires and added various meats to the broth. While the practice produces ridiculously warming, tasty results, especially in the winter months, it also naturally encourages hours of eating, drinking, and conversing. In short, hot pot can usually be equated to good times. The Mongols knew this.


The primary ingredient originally was meat (including mutton and horse), and the broth was not spicy. Hot pot subsequently spread throughout China, where distinct regional variations developed and persist to this day.


While hot pot is undoubtedly flavorful to eat and fun partake in, you may not immediately realize that it’s also very healthy. Unlike frying or other methods of cooking with added fat, boiling meats and veggies only releases their nutrients back into the cooking broth, maximizing the flavors. Having hot pot in the colder months can help you warm up from the inside out while enjoying it in the hotter months can help you sweat and cool off. You can’t lose either way!


The most famous variation is Chongqing hot pot, distinguished by the extremely spicy Sichuan peppers added liberally to the broth. It can be almost impossibly hot for some first-timers.


Sichuan province in China is famous generally for its spicy cuisine. Sichuan hot pot is also synonymous with being hot and spicy.


Hot pot has further spread throughout Asia and is popular in many Asian countries to this day including notably in Thailand, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Japan. As in China, many different varieties have also been developed in Japan. They have several names. But two are more well known in America than others: sukiyaki and shabu-shabu. Sukiyaki typically uses a shallow iron pot, and in that sense is distinct from typical Chinese hot pot. Shabu-shabu is much more similar to Chinese hot pot. Thinly sliced meats and vegetables are dipped in a hot broth seasoned with kelp and then swished back and forth several times (to cook) before being eaten. The food is typically dipped in a sesame seed sauce before being eaten.