How to Make Authentic Chinese Family Meals Perfect for Sharing

Chinese family meals hot pot with plates of meats, sesafood, and vegetables on black granite table

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Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Ready to make authentic Chinese family meals in the comfort of your kitchen? Learn how to make classic hot pot dishes using this step-by-step guide!

Chinese families have gathered around the dinner table for generations to enjoy traditional home-cooked meals. One of my favorite options for a family dinner is a hot pot. This authentic Chinese cuisine is healthy and brings everyone closer while they savor the delicious flavors.

Tired of eating out at Chinese restaurants? This post shares an easy and healthy recipe for a traditional Chinese hot pot. Your taste buds will thank me later!

Table of Contents

  1. Most Popular Chinese Dish
  2. Traditional Chinese Hot Pots
    1. Origins of Chinese Hot Pots
    2. Hot Pot City
    3. Beijing Traditional Hot Pot
    4. Hainan Island Hot Pot
  3. My Experience with Chinese Hot Pots
  4. Making Your Own Hot Pot
    1. Type and Flavor of Broth  
    2. Select Ingredients for Your Hot Pot
    3. Prepare the Mixins
  5. Enjoy Your Traditional Chinese Family Meal
  6. Related Topics
Hot pot set on burner in middle of wooden table with white dishes and a square plate of mixed greens and mushrooms
This was our 1st hot pot meal at home! We made a coconut milk broth, added chicken and veggies, and served it with steamed jasmine rice and mixins. Definitely an easy and nutritious family meal.

One of the most popular Chinese family meals is hot pot. A hot pot is a dish consisting of a simmering metal pot of broth at the center of the dining table. It is surrounded by various raw ingredients such as meat, seafood, vegetables, noodles, and tofu.

To spice things up, you can use Chinese spices and condiments for traditional hotpot meals. Preparing all the ingredients and cooking them together in the broth doesn’t take too long.

Everyone chooses mixins to add to their portion based on their flavor profiles. Hot pot meals are like playing a game of endless meal possibilities with the entire family!

Besides being one of the most famous Chinese dishes, hot pots are a healthy and delicious meal. Depending on your choices, this classic Chinese recipe can be vegan, pescatarian, or vegetarian.

This hot pot was half spicy Hellfire and half coconut milk broth.

Traditional Chinese Hot Pots

Eating a hot pot together is a traditional way for Chinese families to share meals. This easy recipe is nutritious and makes for an unforgettable meal. Hot pots bring people closer while providing sustenance, making them the perfect way to bond with your family.

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Origins of Chinese Hot Pots

Hot pot has been a popular dish in Chinese cuisine for centuries, originating in Mongolia 800-900 years ago. Its primary ingredient was originally tender meat, including mutton and horse, served alongside a non-spicy broth.

As it spread throughout China, regionalized variations were created and remain today. Making hot pots a traditional Chinese family meal for the ages!

Hot Pot City

Hotpot is an iconic and beloved Chinese dish, especially in the city of Chongqing.

In 2007, the China Cuisine Association officially recognized Chongqing as the “Hot Pot City” of China, proving its long history and culinary significance.

With over 50,000 eateries serving hot pot dishes and employing 3.5 million people throughout the area, hot pot has become an essential part of Chinese family meals in the region.

Beijing Traditional Hot Pot

traditional beijing hot pots lined up with copper lids and red copper base on metal table
Gathering to enjoy a traditional Beijing hot pot is a flavorful and memorable experience!

Beijing’s traditional hot pot has long been a beloved Chinese family meal. Combining flavors and ingredients enjoyed for centuries, this unique dish features a copper pot resembling a volcano at the center of the table.  

Thinly sliced meats, mushrooms, ginger, scallions, and other ingredients such as stomach meat, lamb, tofu, green vegetables, and thin rice noodles are placed in the boiling broth.

The overall experience is one of savoring both flavourful seasonings and fresh ingredients while spending quality time with family and friends.

Here’s a video of a traditional Beijing hot pot meal:

This was my first hot pot experience in Beijing.

Hainan Island Hot Pot

Located in the southernmost part of China, Hainan province is a tropical location with an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables, and seafood.

A hallmark of Hainan’s cuisine is a savory coconut flavor from coconut water or coconut milk broth used to simmer the ingredients.

This tasty cooking style is widespread throughout the region. Hainan’s Chinese family meals often feature a hot pot feast. Locals create special dishes such as fish, watermelon, seafood, and coconut chicken hot pots.

Enjoying food made with coconut and love is an essential part of life in Hainan.

My Experience with Chinese Hot Pots

I’ve enjoyed hot pot meals in Beijing and Hainan. Each region has unique flavors and ingredients.

We enjoyed this seafood hot pot on New Year’s Day in Hainan.
This hot pot in Hainan had a rich, spicy flavor.

Although the Beijing traditional hot pot is delicious and aesthetically pleasing for a unique cultural experience, the Hainan hot pots are my favorite.

Here is a video of a server preparing Hainan’s coconut chicken hot pot:

Using coconut water is a healthy alternative for broths in hot pots.

Making Your Own Hot Pot

Are you ready to make your own Chinese hot pot? Let’s get started!

Here’s what you need to put together:

  1. Large soup pot. I use a shallower soup pot because it’s easier to add and remove ingredients while dining.
  2. Portable hot plate. This isn’t entirely necessary, so don’t feel you need to purchase a hot plate for your table unless you want one. It’s easier for us to use a hot plate than our gas range, so we have a small hot plate in the middle of our dining table. You can make your hot pot on your kitchen stove and then serve it at your dining table.
  3. Broth. Choose the type of flavor for your hot pot meal. I use coconut water or coconut milk in our hot pots. Sometimes we will add hot chili peppers, but it’s not my favorite flavor. Having crushed or fresh hot chili peppers for mixins is a good option.
  4. Ingredients. Meats, seafood, vegetables, tofu, noodles, and mushrooms are all great options.
  5. Sauces. The options are endless for the sauces to use for mixins with a hot pot meal.
Hainan coconut hot pot with the mixins!

Type and Flavor of Broth  

The broth is the essential element of a hot pot meal.

When choosing your hot pot broth, you have many options based on type and flavor. Choose from fish, vegetables, chicken, or beef broth to start with your hot pot meal. If you prefer something more robust, consider beef or chicken stock, available in different levels of spiciness and depth of flavor.

If you like extra spicy, adding your favorite seasonings or chili peppers to the broth is simple.

For non-spicy options, adding bay leaves, raw fresh coconut, onions, ginger, and garlic creates a lovely flavor and aroma. The list goes on! Experiment with flavors until you find the perfect combination for your family meal.

salad greens in white square dish with white long mushrooms and brown button mushrooms and brocolii
Fresh veggies and mushrooms are great for hot pots. We choose romaine lettuce, Chinese cabbage, spinach, broccoli, and mushroom varieties.

Select Ingredients for Your Hot Pot

Choose from various types of meat, seafood, vegetables, tofu, and noodles for your hot pot.

Make sure you get a balance of all the different food groups to create a tasty and healthy meal for your family.

Don’t shy away from trying interesting ingredients such as quail eggs, spare ribs, lotus root, or tofu skins. These ingredients will add flavor and texture! Make sure everyone has their favorite ingredients to make it enjoyable.

It’s important to choose ingredients that will cook quickly, so the meal is ready in no time.

boiling vegetable and tofu in a silver pot
This coconut chicken hot pot has tofu, Chinese cabbage, and mushrooms.

A perfect weeknight meal, here are some common ingredients for a hot pot:

  • fish balls
  • meatballs (ground beef, chicken, or pork)
  • shrimp
  • crab meat
  • tofu
  • thin slices of beef or pork
  • wontons
  • pork belly
  • fish
  • chicken
  • fresh vegetables
  • green beans
  • bamboo shoots
  • baby corn
  • bean sprouts
  • romaine lettuce
  • Chinese cabbage
  • sweet potato
  • bok choy
  • and more!

These are all popular choices for ingredients in a hot pot as they cook in just a few minutes.

You should cook vegetables such as mushrooms, Chinese cabbage, and carrots separately, as they take slightly longer to cook.

Lastly, always have some steamed rice or noodles on hand. Udon, egg, or rice noodles are ideal. If you prefer a bowl of steamed rice, basmati, or jasmine, add another layer of texture and flavor to your hot pot meal.

Prepare the Mixins

Once you have everything ready, start preparing the mixins and toppings. There are many options to choose from, so be creative!

Mix in some sauces to bring the flavor up a notch. We use small bowls to prepare our own mixins for hot pot meals.

You can add anything to your mixins. Here’s a list of ideas:

  • sesame oil
  • chili oil
  • oyster sauce
  • hoisin sauce
  • dark soy sauce
  • sweet chili sauce
  • fish sauce
  • dried chili flakes
  • crushed garlic
  • crushed ginger
  • crushed chili peppers
  • peanut butter
  • spicy sauce
  • cilantro
  • peanut sauce
  • sticky sauce
  • spring onions
  • Chinese black vinegar

Add some diced nuts, such as cashews or peanuts, for added texture and flavor. Sesame seeds are also a great addition. Get creative and mix them together!

small white bowl with peanut sauce covered in diced spring onions and cilantro
My favorite mixins are oyster sauce, peanut butter, crushed ginger and onion, crushed garlic, fresh spring onions, and cilantro.

Enjoy Your Traditional Chinese Family Meal

When everyone’s gathered with the mixins prepared, it’s time to start cooking!

Take each ingredient and layer them in the pot. Fresh veggies, tofu, and mushrooms go in last, so they don’t overcook.

Once everything is cooked, pour a portion of broth into small bowls for everyone to enjoy as a side dish. In northern China, broths are served to enjoy at the end of the meal.

Invite your family members to get creative and create their delicious combinations of ingredients. It’ll make for a memorable dining experience!

Enjoy your Chinese family meal and savor every bite.

Thanks for stopping by!

Until next time,


We all have unlimited potential.

Hi! I’m Suzanne and welcome to my blog. For more than two decades of teaching, writing, and public speaking, I’ve been inspiring children, teens, and adults to cultivate their potential.

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