My favorite lunar new year parties are celebrated at home, with lots of family and friends gathered and cooking together. That means setting up assembly lines to wrap dumplings and spring rolls or setting up a hot pot in the middle of the dining table.
There are lots of great hot pot restaurants in L.A., but I love the homey warmth of a big DIY party at home — it’s a lot of fun for very little effort. Here’s how to do it:
1. Go to a big Chinese or Asian supermarket. 99 Ranch Market is a sure-fire bet to have what you need.
2. Buy a stove and pot. You need a propane-fueled camping-style stove for the center of the table and the propane to go with it. These are usually sold near the rice cookers and they all have big labels that say they’re not for indoor use, but ... well, my house is still standing. My general rule is four adults per stove, so get more if you need to. The pots are sold right next to the stoves and the partitioned ones are ideal for customizing soups.
3. Make sure you have cooking tools and tableware. Each hot pot participant needs wooden chopsticks and a slotted spoon or ladle for fishing out the cooked food from the broth; a shallow soup dish or a small plate and soup bowl; and a sauce dish like the kind you get with sushi. A Chinese soup spoon is nice but not necessary.
4. Get all the ingredients. Start in the sauce aisle. Dipping sauces are essential to the experience and you can buy ready-mixed barbecue or hot pot sauces or offer guests a mix-and-match DIY selection. I always set out soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame paste, chile sauce, chile crisp and fermented bean curd. For fresh ingredients, my go-to hot pot shopping list is as follows:
- Produce section: Nappa cabbage, dark leafy greens like spinach or bok choy, quick-cooking mushrooms like enoki
- Refrigerated cases: tofu puffs, bean curd knots, fresh rice noodles
- Seafood: shrimp, scallops, white (nonoily) fish fillets
- Meat: presliced beef and lamb for hot pot
5. Set the table and prep ingredients. Place the stove in the center of the table and arrange table settings and sauce bottles around it. As for ingredients, there’s very little to do: Just slice vegetables and noodles and put everything else out on serving platters around the stove. Bring water or unsalted stock or broth to a boil on your regular stove, then pour into the portable stove’s pot and turn on the propane burner.
6. Gather guests and eat! Instruct everyone to cook what they want in the pot and then eat with their homemade dipping sauce. Nappa cabbage and tofu can hang out in the broth, but most everything else needs just a minute or two to cook through. Adjust the heat as needed to keep the water simmering but not boiling. Add the noodles at the end and divvy the now-flavorful soup among guests.