Weekend Cooking: Happy Chinese New Year hotpot!

The lunar new year officially began on January 31. And on New Year’s Eve, one is meant to gather with the family and have what is known as a reunion dinner. When I was a kid that meant a big steamboat (that’s what we call hotpot in Singapore) feast at my paternal grandparents’ house. My cousins, aunties and uncles would be there so that meant two big tables of food surrounding the electric steamboat in the middle.

With us living in the US (no public holiday!) and our families back in Singapore, Chinese New Year is far quieter for the boys!

But with my mum’s arrival on Thursday, we managed to have a little celebration of our own with some friends. On a suitably rainy and chilly Saturday – just the right weather for hotpot!

I made a chicken stock for one side of our dual hotpot and the other side was a herbal stock known as bak kut teh in Singapore (usually a pork rib soup – but I just use the herbs that came in the packet).



– napa cabbage
– carrots
– kabocha squash
– mushrooms (white and brown beech and king trumpet)
– fish tofu
– fish balls
– crab sticks
– Viennese sausages
– thinly sliced wagyu for shabu shabu from Mitsuwa market
– thinly sliced pork belly
– Singapore style chili sauce
– Japanese sesame dipping sauce
– Taiwanese dipping paste shacha

And I cooked some Hainanese chicken rice (albeit from a store bought paste) as an accompaniment.

Essentially you get the pot onto the portable gas stove (or sometimes electric, or sometimes the whole hotpot itself is an electric thing), get the stocks bubbling (I had been simmering both stocks on my kitchen stove for about half an hour already, to develop some flavour). Then begin by putting into the stock the vegetables and mushrooms, which take longer to cook. Other items like the meat should be done individually – pick up the common chopsticks and the little dipping basket (essentially a ladle with holes), swish the meat around in the stock until it’s done just the way you like it (I like mine cooked for just a short while, so that it’s still a bit pink). Then pop it into your bowl. Pick up your own chopsticks, dip the meat in your favourite dipping sauce, and yum!

There was way too much food but somehow we found space for dessert.


One of our friends brought a raspberry tart from a French bakery in Palo Alto. So good I forgot to take a photo!

My mum brought from Singapore kueh lapis (layered cake), a rich eggy many layered butter cake with spices. And sometimes, like this one, studded with prunes. Here’s one recipe (with 22 yolks!) – it’s a tedious process in which a layer is baked then another later poured over and baked and so on. I doubt I’ll ever try making it myself.

Happy New Year!


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