The Great Khan’s fire pot

Did the Swiss invent fondue? Not according to the Mongolian warriors. The greatest culinary contribution of the Great Khan was undoubtedly the Mongolian fire pot, which metamorphosed in the West into a fondue pot. But instead of cheese, the fire pot cooks meat and other ingredients in a savoury broth. The Mongol emperors must have thrown some lively dinner parties.

90g (3 oz) dried bean thread noodles
340g (12 oz) spinach, coarse stems discarded
900g (2 lb) boneless lamb (leg or loin), chicken or beef, cut into thin strips
450g (1 lb) medium raw prawns, shelled and deveined (optional)
2 spring onions, cut into 2.5-cm (1-in) lengths

2 l (2 qt) chicken broth
1 slice ginger, lightly crushed
2 tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry

Hot and Spicy Dipping Sauce

60 ml (2 fl oz) chicken broth
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 tsp chilli garlic sauce
1 tsp chopped coriander

Spicy Hoisin Dipping Sauce

3 tbsp Hoisin sauce
2 tbsp chicken broth
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp chilli garlic sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Tangy Mustard Dipping Sauce

3 tbsp chicken broth
3 tbsp prepared Chinese mustard
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
2 tsp soy sauce

Soak the noodles in warm water to cover until softened, about 30 minutes; drain. Cut the noodles into 7.5-cm (3-in) pieces. Place the noodles and spinach on a serving platter with the lamb, prawns, and onions. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.

In separate small serving bowls, whisk the dipping sauce ingredients until blended.

In a large pot, bring the broth, ginger and wine to the boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low; cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Discard the ginger. Set a Mongolian fire pot or an electric wok in the centre of the table. Arrange the lamb platter and dipping sauces around the cooking vessel. Pour the hot broth into the fire pot and adjust the heat so the broth simmers gently. Each diner cooks his or her choice of ingredients and seasons it with dipping sauce.

Plotting your Fire Pot

When purchasing a fire pot or hot pot, be sure to find one that is functional and not merely ornamental. To prevent damage to the pot, fill the moat with hot broth before adding the charcoal. Light the charcoal ahead of time in a barbecue, then transfer them to the fire pot. Unable to find a raditional fire pot? In a pinch, use an electric wok, or a portable gas burner, or even a fondue pot. The Cantonese version of hot pot is called a fire pot, which is a large clay pot over a portable burner or cool-burning stove.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Taken from Martin Yan’s book "Martin Yan’s Invitation to Chinese Cooking" with permission. © Martin Yan. Published by Pavilion Books Limited. ISBN 1-86205-089-9.