Hot pot is a Chinese cooking method, prepared with a simmering pot of soup stock at the dining table, containing a variety of East Asian foodstuffs and ingredients. While the hot pot is kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table, in a manner similar to fondue. Typical hot pot dishes include thinly sliced meat, leaf vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, egg dumplings, tofu, and seafood. The cooked food is usually eaten with a dipping sauce.
Archaeological evidence shows that the earliest hot pots appeared around the Han dynasty. Diners among the nobility each had a personal pot. Later, during the Qing dynasty, hot pot became popular among the emperors. In particular, the Qianlong Emperor was very fond of hot pot, and would eat it for almost every meal. Later, the Jiaqing Emperor also had a banquet with 1550 hot pots at his coronation. Empress Dowager Cixi was also known to have enjoyed hot pot, especially in the winter months
There are many reasons explaining why the hot pot become popular. The most convincing one is a folklore about emperors’ love. Qianlong, one of the emperors in Qing Dynasty ardently loved it, even eating hot pot every meal. When setting banquet, Qianlong always asked servants to prepare hot pots. His son, Emperor Jiaqing also liked the hot pot. The day he ascended the throne, he set more than 1500 tables of hot pots to celebrate. Following the two emperors, people desired to try hot pot. Thereafter, hot pot became popular.
Another widely accepted reason is that the hot pot has the power to enhance friendship and unite family members or colleagues. Several people sit around a hot pot, talking and eating. They pick up food in one pot, which create a natural closeness atmosphere to them. The warm air is also considered to make people comfortable.