Hot Pot Gone Wrong

“Hot pot” (火锅) is one of the most universally loved Chinese dining experiences. It only seemed natural for us to take ChinesePod blogger Frank for hot pot when he came for a visit.

It was a nice meal, and reasonably priced (we ate at 傣妹 on Huaihai Lu). It went a little bad, towards the end, however. Part of it was my fault. I ordered too much food. Then, as we were all getting really full, we dumped too much food into the pot at once. The result was that some of the stuff on the bottom started to burn. The food began to take on a “smoky” flavor which just got really nasty as the reddish spicy broth turned brown. Here’s a pic:

Hot Pot Gone Wrong

So enjoy your hot pot, folks, but eat responsibly. Even hot pot can go bad.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. you novices! how dare you defile the holy hot pot!?!

  2. Yeah, it’s kind of embarrassing… I guess usually it just gets eaten more quickly? Not sure what happened there…

    A lesson is learned, but the damage is irreversible.

  3. I’m currently nursing hotpottedness (that feeling you can only get from slowly stuffing yourself with hotpot – similar to turkeydinnerness, but less gravy)… the wife and gorged on it.

    The best/worst appliance I ever bought in China was a home hotpot hot plate (try saying that five times fast)… I suffer the hotpot sweats at least once a week.

  4. that looks crap. Remind me never to get hotpot in Shanghai.

  5. Introduced a buddy (Peter) to the hot pot (Korean style) before Christmas and we went ballistic, packing the hot boiling water with veggies, fish balls, meat balls, tofu, noodles, eggs, etc. and the thing overflowed like a backed up toilet. The solution: eat quickly and add more water. But it looks like that hot pot is about half the size of the Korean style. Did the clerk refill the hot pot or did you guys let it go on a full stomach?

  6. I like Hot Pot, ’cause i’m in Sichuan!

  7. Wow, I’ve always considered hot pot to be “so simple even I can manage it.” Doing that kind of damage takes some talent… 🙂 I agree with Wilson, adding water is the key.

  8. I try to stay clear of the “mushy” category of hotpot ingredients, such as potatoes. They mysteriously disappear into the hotpot.

  9. Prince Roy,

    Oh, come on. This picture was taken specifically as an example of terrible-looking hot pot. Shanghai’s hot pot is fine.

  10. Wilson and John B,

    Yes, we added water several times. It still went nasty. After it got nasty we kind of stopped eating, but didn’t turn the flame off right away, so it cooked down a little.

  11. Potato can be good if you eat it at the right time, maybe 4 minutes after going in. But don’t make the same mistake I made once: eggplant. In 10 seconds, it was a big mess. I don’t even know why they have it on the menu. Cucumber dissapears a lot too.

    Most under-rated hotpot ingredients: tofu skin, meatballs, duck intestine.

    In another funny hot pot story, I once thought I was ordering some vegetables, and instead, they brought out cupcakes, icing covered and all. We didn’t put them in the oil though.

  12. I was about to ask you if you always bring your camera with you when I saw those ad pictures you took in subway stations. Now I know what happened…

  13. John,

    that’s kind of the point. That should never happen to hotpot. Anywhere. It should be impossible to screw it up. You couldn’t adjust the heat? Maybe I should amend my comment to: Remind me never to get hotpot in Shanghai. With John Pasden.

    Potatoes are an awesome hotpot ingredient. They should go in towards the end though. Cucumbers are excellent as well: just don’t leave them in too long. One thing the Taiwanese add that I really like a lot is corn. Very very tasty.

  14. I hope the hot pot on the east coast is better than the stuff you get in sichuan. That shit is disgusting!

    Now sichuan barbecue on the other hand…

  15. Jacky Chan Says: January 16, 2007 at 1:17 pm


    孔曰:There is no good hotpot, only bad and worse.

    Next time you are hungry and get the urge to eat hotpot, try this instead: crack open a coconut with your bare hands, eat the meat, then try to convince a woman that a 2$ bottle of lotion from Walgreens will keep her skin looking no less young than an 80$ bottle from a department store cosmetics counter. The result? You will have done alot of work for a little bit of food, you will still be hungry, and you will have wasted a lot of time. Presto: “virtual hotpot”.

  16. Prince, you’re funny. I’ve personally messed up a few hot pots by combining too meat and seafood, and savage / hungry enough, requested a new pot with fresh oily water – problem solved. But hey John, didn’t we get hot pot BBQ that one night when we walked for like miles and met up with SS and her flight attendant friend – the one that had a baby but was like size 0, fine and still down to flirt?

  17. I’ve never seen such a nasty looking hotpot in my life… and I eat it almost weekly. The worst I’ve ever done is put a bunch of shellfish in the 麻辣 side of an half&half pot. That was odd, since it gave the 豬血糕 a kind of fishy flavor, but I sure as heck haven’t seen it burnt. In John’s defense, though, the hotpot place he took me to when I visited last summer was great. No spicy broth turned brown. No smoke.

  18. Looks vile 🙂 That pot looks too shallow.

  19. Thanks, Mark.

  20. I find it amazing they would serve hot pot in such a banged up pot. It looks like someone stepped on it.

Leave a Reply