Hot pot season is in full swing. When the temperature outside dips, there’s nothing more comforting than gathering around a pot of bubbling broth with friends and family, getting a spicy facial from the curls of steam, and surrounding yourself with platters of napa cabbage, fish balls, thin slices of well-marbled beef, and more.
If hot pot is on the menu for Lunar New Year this year, it’s time to stock up on soup bases. There’s something for everyone: plain bone broth, tingly Szechuan pepper base, or a robust tomato-flavored soup. The best part is that the broth is only enhanced by the addition of vegetables, proteins, rice cakes, tofu, and more—so get cooking.
Little Sheep is a classic and reliable broth base. The Mongolian hot pot chain—which has locations in the United States, Canada, Australia, and all across Asia—clearly knows how to make a well-loved broth. My personal favorite is the spicy base, which isn’t too numbingly hot but definitely has a welcomed zip.
Although we can’t currently venture to Haidilao, the international Chinese chain that specializes in hot pot and demonstrations of hand-pulled noodles, we can still have the famed soup at home. The plain broth flavor is creamy, savory, and milky. It’s not overpowering, so your meats, seafood, and vegetables will really shine here.
There’s almost always floating slices of shiitake mushrooms in hot pot. If you’re the type of person who fishes out those mushroom slivers with your chopsticks and loves the earthy and umami flavors that mushroom brings to the party, then opt for this porcini mushroom base. In addition to strong mushroom flavor, this soup base also has a hint of ginger. Bonus: it’s completely vegan.
Tomato soup as a hot pot broth is just as comforting as the kind served alongside a grilled cheese sandwich—though this version is definitely thinner and more mild in flavor. It’s somewhat reminiscent of this tomato noodle soup recipe; expect a soup that is sweet and salty and full of the unmistakable aroma of tomatoes.
Enhance your scallop, shrimp, fish, and other hot pot ingredients with a seafood base. Dried shrimp and scallops give this broth that funky, umami flavor while chili flakes provide some heat. This soup is a great option for pescatarians or those who prefer their hot pot proteins to consist primarily of seafood.
Bullhead makes the famed barbecue sauce
filled with funky anchovies that completes every hot pot set, so we definitely trust them to make a delicious soup base as well. Like satay, this broth is sweet, salty, and nutty. The flavor is relatively mild and will taste great alongside corn, enoki mushrooms, and slivers of Kurobuta pork.
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