Spicy hotpot

  • Preparation Time60 mins
  • Cooking Time20 mins
  • Serves4
  • DifficultyMedium

For the spicy soup base

2 tbsps groundnut oil
3 - 4 long dried Sichuan chiles or long dried chiles
60g whole Sichuan peppercorns
1 tbsp chilli bean sauce (can be found at speciality Asian markets)
1 tbsp chilli sauce
1.5L 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
270ml chilli oil
1 (2 cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled
2 medium red chillies, seeded and sliced

For the hotpot

250g (MSG free) fish balls (if you are unable to get hold of these, leave them out, or substitute with vegetables instead)
1 large spring onion, coarsely chopped
1 small handful Chinese cabbage, sliced 2cm thick
1 small handful deep-fried tofu (if you are unable to get hold of this, leave it out or substitute with vegetables instead)
1 small handful fresh tofu, cut into 2cm chunks

For the vinegar, chilli and soy dipping sauce

3 tbsp black rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp light soy sauce
1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped

For the special Taiwanese dipping sauce

1 egg yolk
1 tbsp Oriental satay sauce (can be found in speciality Asian markets) or barbecue sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
1 tbsp finely sliced spring onion

For the assembly

250 g (MSG free) fish cake, sliced (if you are unable to get hold of this, leave it out or substitute with vegetables instead)
Baby corn, as needed (can be found in speciality Asian markets)
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
Notes: 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.

1) For the soup base: heat a just over 1 1/2 L capacity wok over a high heat, and add the groundnut oil. Stir-fry the chillies and Sichuan peppercorns until fragrant. Add the chilli bean sauce and chilli sauce, then pour in the stock. Add the star anise, mushrooms, orange peel, chilli 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 chillies.

2) For the hotpot: 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.

3) For the soy dipping sauce: combine the black vinegar, soy sauce, and chillies in a bowl, and set the sauce aside.

4) For the special dipping sauce: let each guest prepare their own Taiwanese dipping sauce at the table. In a small bowl, stir to combine the egg yolk, satay sauce, coriander, and spring onions.*

5) For the assembly: 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 centre 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: 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.

*RAW EGG WARNING: Food Network Kitchens suggest caution in consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs due to the slight risk of Salmonella or other food-borne illnesses. To reduce this risk, we recommend you use only fresh, properly-refrigerated, clean, grade A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolk or whites and the shell.

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