Healthy Si Chuan Hot Pot from Scratch! 健康麻辣火锅

Healthy, satisfying, and delicious hot pot that’s easy to make. Great for social gatherings during winter time.

I just got back from home in Texas, where it was warm and sunny, grass was already green, and there was not a bit of snow in sight. Spring is finally here!

…then I return from Spring Break back up to Princeton, and it is windy, chilly, and snow still hasn’t melted. NJ, are you kidding me?!

In the meantime, as I’m waiting for Spring to find its way up north, I’m curling up with brothy soups and hot pot!

hot pot by vivian tang

During chilly weather, my favorite way to warm up is (1) a tough sweaty workout, followed by (2) a long steamy and satisfying hot pot dinner.

Hot pot is the ultimate comfort food because it is so warm and satisfying and you share it with people who make you warm and comfy. ^_^ It’s a social comfort food. Some comfort foods like a bowl of soup or chocolate chip cookie are usually enjoyed alone, but hot pot is one of those meals you sit down with your friends and fam for hours, eating, chatting, warming up from the food and from the company.

mei mei at hot pot table

Hot pot is also inherently pretty healthy. I mean it’s just meat & veggies cooked in broth! But many folks who eat it at home use the prepackaged soup base, which is filled with junk like MSG, soybean oil, preservatives, way too much sodium, etc., which, in my opinion, just bastardizes what hot pot is supposed to be.

spiralized daikon1 spiralized carrots1

While I do love some tender chicken and squid in hot pot (yummm), a hot pot would not be complete without veggies, tofu, glass noodles, spiralized carrots, and broccoli in hot pot.! Hot pot should also be enjoyed with abundant vegetables, and for those of you who hate tofu, let me tell you, tofu in hot pot turns into something amazing because it absorbs all of the flavor of the broth.

vegetables

TIPS FOR HEALTHY HOT POT: 

  • Make your own hot pot soup base (see video!). No MSG / preservatives.
  • Eat hot pot with loads of vegetable, especially leafy greens.
  • Substitute rice noodles with low-calorie & low-carb konnyaku nooodles (pic below) & spiralized carrots and daikon.
  • Balance your hot pot meal with good fats, carbs, and proteins. Fats & protein from meats and oils, carbs from starchy vegetables like taro and lotus.

konnyaku1

When eating hot pot, I also want to make sure that I’m getting a good balance between fats, carbs, and protein. Fats and protein is taken care of from the meat and chicken stock, dipping sauces and oils, but for healthy carbohydrates, I enjoy my hot pot with taro and lotus root (below picture) which are starchy vegetables filled with complex carbs, and they cook up SUPER delicious in the hot pot.

lotus taro in hot pot

Although I’m sharing a recipe for Sichuan-style hot pot 麻辣火锅, my favorite hot pot soup base is actually tomato soup base (pic below), but that’s more of a summertime hot pot, when you crank up the AC and enjoy hot pot in already burning weather. 😛

tomato base

So for chilly weather, I usually enjoy a hot pot that is spicy hot and rich in flavor. Making hot pot from scratch may seem complicated, and I’m not saying it isn’t, but it really is not too hard. The only reason why homemade hot pot is a bit complex is the amount of ingredients, but all there is to it is simply frying up a bunch of spices in oil and then dumping into the fried spices some stock or broth.

Healthy, easy, and simply delicious.

Now before going to recipe, I want to say that I have a pretty good spice tolerance. I love spicy food so much that I can’t go a day without it. Sort of sad but true. I even douse my salads in chili flakes. So… when frying the spices adjust to your own taste level. Of course, true Sichuan Hot Pot is burning red, so just keep that in mind if you want a more authentic dish.

hot pot by vivian tang

Healthy Homemade Sichuan Hot Pot 麻辣火锅
makes enough for a large pot of soup base, serves about 4 people 

Spices & herbs:
Sichuan peppercorn: 1-2 tbsp
Chili peppers, dried whole: 2-3 tbsp
Star anise: 3-5 pieces
Cumin or fennel seeds: 1 tbsp
Garlic: 8-10 cloves
Ginger: 1-inch chunk, sliced

Sauces: 
Chinese fermented black beans (黑豆豉): 1-2 tbsp
Chinese hot bean chili paste (辣豆瓣酱): 1-2 tbsp
Garlic-chili paste (蒜蓉辣椒酱): 1-2 tbsp
Salt, to taste (remember that the above sauces can be salty, so adjust!)

Homemade chicken stock:
(You can use any kind of broth / stock – you can even do vegetarian)
Whole chicken
Ginger: 2 inches of root
Spices: star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon stick, bay leaves

Stuff to cook in hot pot:
Suggestions for meats and seafoods:
Any kind of meat, thinly sliced (my favorite is chicken but beef and lamb is probably the more popular ones)
Shrimp
Squid
Fish (salmon is actually super tasty in hot pot!)

Leafy Greens (load up on these!)
Tong Ho
Napa Cabbage
Bok Choy

Starchy vegetables & root veggies
Carrots, daikon, spiralized
Taro (good source of carbohydrates)
Lotus

Dipping sauce + sides:
Chinese black vinegar
Organic soy sauce
Fresh chopped: scallions, cilantro
Chili sauce
Garlic-sesame oil paste
Chinese sesame tahini (麻将): this is a very common dipping sauce for hot pot, but tbh, it ain’t my favorite!

Hot pot can be overwhelming to the palate, so I like having some crunchy cold side dishes to keep fresh!
Pickled garlic (as palate cleanser)
Pickled veggies (as palate cleanser)

SAUCE1

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