Huoguo (hotpots) refers either to the utensil or the dish prepared with it. Made of red copper, a typical huoguo is a vessel with a shaft running through as a hearth and airway. A grate in the hearth holds the charcoal and drops the ashes to the base, where a door controls air intake. First recorded around the year 220, huoguo was a wintry royal delicacy of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911). By the early 1900s, numerous styles had evolved. Today, charcoal is being replaced by electricity and natural gas, and a huoguo may be as simple as a pot of iron or steel. The method of cooking is the instant boiling (shuan) of meat, vegetables, seafood and other foodstuffs.
Instant-boiled mutton slices (Shuanyangrou) is a northern Chinese favourite, known for its dipping sauce made of scallion, garlic, vinegar, sesame oil and chillies. A chain restaurant, Xiaofeiyang, offers an equally savoury alternative without sauces.
‘Chongqing hotpot’, a nationally popular Sichuan specialty, used to be fishermen’s home cooking (jiachangcai). A certain Ma family introduced it to restaurants in 1926. Spicy and rich in its selection of meat and vegetables, it is celebrated for its culture: men and women, old and young, associating in countless huoguo shops all year round, dripping with sweat and glowing with amusement. To accommodate different tastes, a chef named Yan Wenjun invented ‘Yuanyang hotpot’ in 1983, a pot split into a spicy compartment and a mild one. Other hotpot cuisines include the northeastern specialty ‘Pork with pickled vegetable hotpot’ (Suancaibairouguo), the Cantonese seafood hotpot (Dabianlu) and the Taiwanese ginger chicken (Jiangmuji). Vegetarian and medicinal food hotpot recipes are increasingly popular.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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