How to Host a Vegetarian Hot Pot Party

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A thorough guide on how to host a fun and delicious vegetarian hot pot party at home. The post includes tips and instructions on how to prepare the food and includes a recipe at the end as guidance. You can replace any of the ingredients with ones you prefer. {Vegetarian, Vegan}

Vegetarian hot pot using spicy and non-spicy broth

The dinner table is centered around a big pot that is usually divided into two sections for two different broth bases. Around the pot, various small plates of vegetables, mushrooms, many kinds of tofu, and noodles are presented as a beautiful spread. When the pot is bubbling, everyone starts to pick their favorite ingredients and cook them in the pot. Once the ingredients are just cooked, they are then transferred to individual plates and served with a rich dipping sauce. Cold beer is usually served along with the hot food. And all the guests are chatting, cooking and enjoying the food as they sip the beer, with music in the background. Doesn’t it sound super fun?  

How to host a vegetarian hot pot party at home

Why hot pot 

Chinese hot pot is one of the most popular ways to host a dinner party to celebrate a Chinese festival. 

  • It is really easy to prepare ahead of time. All you need to do is to shop for the ingredients, then wash and prep them. Your guests will be cooking by themselves so no cooking is needed prior to the party!
  • Because you’ll be serving a great variety of food, your guests will usually find something they love. The colorful spread is also very festive and a treat for the eyes.
  • Hot pot parties are fun! Because the guests will be choosing their favorite ingredients and cooking the food for themselves and each other, it is a very engaging activity. It also goes on for quite a long time so it’s really perfect for chatting and drinking at the same time. 

In the past, I shared a Chinese hot pot guide, but today I want to focus on how to prepare a vegetarian hot pot party. 

Equipment

Hot pot

You will need a hot pot, preferably one with a divider so you can serve two broth bases at the same time. 

If you prefer the traditional way, you can get a hot pot with a divider and place it on a portable burner.

If you’re feeling fancy, check out the Zojirushi electric hot pot with divider. The set has an electric heating element, with a nonstick pot nested inside of it. You simply plug it in to heat it up. Compared to the traditional way, this is a more convenient and safe setup for a home party.

Long chopsticks and serving spoons

Even though it’s quite common for each guest to use their own chopsticks to cook the ingredients in the pot, it’s nice to have some long chopsticks and slotted spoons on the side. The slotted spoon is a must because some ingredients, such as tofu, can be hard to pick up with chopsticks.

Soup base and dipping sauce

Hot pot soup base

The soup base and dipping sauce are important, because they are the foundation of the pot and where you get all the flavor.

When hosting a party, the easiest way is to purchase a pre-made hot pot base. Usually I serve a spicy broth and a non-spicy broth. But you can pretty much pick any flavors you prefer.

Hot pot bases (spicy and non spicy)

For the spicy ones, I like the Hai Di Lao Sichuan-style spicy base, which is quite spicy and intense. If you prefer a spicy broth that’s less intense, the Little Sheep Mongolian-style soup base is great as well. When you purchase the spicy broth, make sure to check the ingredients. Some popular soup bases use tallow instead of vegetable oil, which is not vegetarian. If you wish to make your own, I have a spicy hot pot base recipe that yields a restaurant-style result and is vegetarian. 

On the non-spicy side, the plain hot pot base is the most common. But you can also find fun flavors such as tomato and mushroom. And I think the mushroom and tomato bases are more fun for a vegetarian hot pot party.

Hot pot with a divider serving spicy and non-spicy broth

Dipping sauce

You can buy various types of hot pot dipping sauce from the grocery store. But my favorite way is to make my own sesame paste based dipping sauce. It is so much more flavorful and fragrant than the store-bought sauce. It is also very rich, which is perfect with vegetables and tofu. 

How to pick vegetarian hot pot ingredients 

This is the most fun and important part of your party. For any hot pot party, it is very important to prepare a great variety of ingredients combined with different flavors and textures to make it fun. It is even more important at a vegetarian hot pot party to focus on texture.

Tofu and tofu products

I highly recommend getting a few tofu products from the Asian grocery store, if you have one around. Fried tofu, yuba sheet, yuba knots, tofu skin, tofu sheets and more. They are all so very different in texture and flavor. Almost all of them absorb more flavor than the regular tofu, which is perfect for vegetarian hot pot. 

For a regular block of tofu, the best way is to freeze the tofu and thaw it. It will change the texture and make it more porous and hold up better. Sometimes you can find frozen tofu at a Chinese grocery store, but it’s super easy to make at home. 

In the picture I show some of my favorite ingredients: yuba knots, fried tofu, and frozen tofu.

Frozen tofu, fried tofu and yuba knots on a plate

Vegetables

You can add any vegetables you like to a vegetarian hot pot. But for the best experience, I prefer vegetables that have different colors and textures.

For example, it’s good to have:

  1. Crunchy vegetables – bamboo shoots, lotus root, cauliflower, radish, broccoli, carrot
  2. Starchy vegetables – squash, potato, sweet potato, taro root 
  3. Leafy greens – napa cabbage, pea shoots, baby bok choy, Chinese broccoli, yu choy, Swiss chard
  4. Other fun Chinese vegetables – winter melon, celtuce, bean sprouts

No matter the party size, I always prefer to serve at least six types of vegetables, and preferably eight vegetables, with a few types from each category. 

Bamboo shoot, lotus root, cauliflower and squash on a plate
Plated baby bok choy, napa cabbage and pea shoots

Mushrooms

Another great way to add variety and texture to your vegetarian hot pot. Just like vegetables, you can pretty much use any type of mushroom. Some of my favorites include: Enokitake (golden needle mushrooms), oyster mushrooms, seafood mushroom, shimeji, and wood ear mushrooms (pre-soaking needed).

Assorted mushrooms on a plate

Other ingredients

I always prefer to serve one doughy ingredient such as noodles or dumplings for my vegetarian hot pot party. 

Noodles are a super easy ingredient to prepare since you can find them almost anywhere. I usually prefer to use a wheat noodle that is made from flour, which works great in a hot pot broth. And you can make them into sesame noodles if you make my dipping sauce

If you prefer a gluten-free noodle, potato starch noodles and sweet potato noodles (the wide type) are great. You can find them at Chinese and Korean grocery stores. Rice noodles and vermicelli are OK as well. Note, for any of those dried starchy noodles, you will need to pre-soak them according to the package instructions before serving.

If you can find vegetarian frozen dumplings, those are great in hot pot as well. I’ve seen some varieties at H Mart that can be boiled, such as kimchi mandu. If you plan to use frozen dumplings, you don’t need to thaw them before serving.

Hot pot with a divider serving spicy and non-spicy broth with vegetables on the side

On the day of the party

All you need to do is prepare the hot pot with the soup base and water. Then prepare all the ingredients and plate them. Make sure to prepare one small plate and one dipping sauce bowl for each guest. The plate is for the cooked ingredients, because sometimes you want to let them cool slightly before eating. 

If you have guests who have never had hot pot before, do take a minute to explain how it works, what the ingredients are, and how they can put a dipping sauce together.

That’s all! I hope you enjoy and host a great vegetarian hot pot party that your friends and family will love 🙂

Further reading

Ma La Xiang Guo (Sichuan Mala Dry Pot, 麻辣香锅) – A great way to use hot pot leftovers. The recipe is not vegetarian. Use tofu to replace the meat in this recipe.

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A thorough guide on how to host a fun and delicious vegetarian hot pot party at home. The post includes tips and instructions on how to prepare the food and includes a recipe at the end as guidance. You can replace any of the ingredients with ones you prefer. {Vegetarian, Vegan}

How to Host a Vegetarian Hot Pot Party

A thorough guide on how to host a fun and delicious vegetarian hot pot party at home. The post includes tips and instructions on how to prepare the food and includes a recipe at the end as guidance. You can replace any of the ingredients with ones you prefer. {Vegetarian, Vegan}
Author: Maggie Zhu
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: festival food
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours
Servings: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

Hot pot soup base

Hot pot dipping sauce

Hot pot ingredients (*Footnote 1)

  • 1 lb (450 g) assorted mushrooms
  • 1/2 block frozen tofu , sliced
  • 2 cups yuba knots (or yuba sheets)
  • 2 cups fried tofu , sliced
  • 4 cups leafy green vegetables (napa cabbage, baby bok choy etc) , cut to large bite-size pieces
  • 4 cups crunchy vegetables (bamboo shoots, cauliflower, lotus root) , cut to bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup starchy vegetable (potato, sweet potato, taro root) , sliced
  • 2 small batches noodles (or half a bag of frozen dumplings)

Instructions

To prepare the hot pot base

  • Add the hot pot base into the hot pot, one flavor on each side. Add water according to the package instructions. For a more stunning presentation, you can add some dried chili peppers on the spicy side and chopped green onions on the non-spicy side (those are optional).

Prepare the dipping sauce

  • Make the dipping sauce if using my homemade recipe. If using store bought, add them into medium-sized bowls, one flavor per bowl.
  • Serve the chopped green onions and chopped cilantro in separate bowls alongside the dipping sauce. You can also add small bowls of sesame oil and / or chili oil on the side. It’s especially useful if you’re using store-bought dipping sauce, since it will make the sauce more fragrant.

Prepare the hot pot ingredients

  • For the mushrooms, wash and drain as needed. Remove the tough ends, then tear into bite-size pieces or clumps. Serve on a plate.
  • Add the frozen tofu, yuba knots and sliced fried tofu to a big plate.
  • For the leafy green vegetables, wash thoroughly and drain. Cut into large bite-size pieces and serve on a plate.
  • For the crunchy vegetables, cut into bite-size pieces if needed. Serve on a large plate.
  • Wash and peel the starchy vegetables. Slice to thin pieces so it’s easy to cook through. Serve on a plate.
  • Serve the noodles on a plate. If using frozen dumplings, pull them out of the freezer right before cooking (these are typically cooked at the end of the meal, so do not pull them out at the beginning of your party).

Cooking with the hot pot

  • When your guests have arrived, heat up the hot pot over medium-high heat. When the hot pot is boiling, it’s ready to cook and eat. (*Footnote 2)
  • For the dipping sauce, each guest will take their portion from the shared sauce bowl, then garnish it with cilantro, green onion and sesame oil, as desired.
  • Cook whichever ingredients you’d like to eat. The cooking time depends on the ingredient. For example, yuba sheets take 30 seconds to 1 minute to cook through. Yuba knots take 1 to 2 minutes. Leafy greens and crunchy vegetables take anywhere from 1 minute to a few minutes. Starchy vegetables and frozen tofu take longer to cook and you should check on them from time to time until tender throughout.
  • Once an item is cooked, immediately transfer it to an individual serving plate. It will overcook if you leave it in the pot. To eat, dip the cooked item in the dipping sauce and enjoy!

Notes

  1. For a hot pot party, you will want to prepare some extra food for variety, to make sure everyone has a great time. You can use the leftover vegetables to make soup, stir fries, or even Ma La Xiang Guo (Spicy dry pot). The other way to use leftovers is to cook everything in the hot pot at the end of the party and store the cooked vegetables in containers. The next day you can heat them up and serve them with the dipping sauce.
  2. After the hot pot has been boiling for a while, the soup level will get lower and lower. You should add boiling water to top off the soup base so the pot doesn’t run dry.
Did You Make This Recipe?Don’t forget the last step! Leave a comment below, and tag me @OmnivoresCookbook and #OmnivoresCookbook on Instagram!

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