Ultimate Guide to Viet Hot Pot: From Preparation to Variations

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Written By Hot Thai Restaurant

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Imagine gathering around a simmering pot of aromatic broth, the air filled with the enticing scents of fresh herbs, spices, and savory meats. This is the essence of Vietnamese hot pot, a beloved tradition that turns mealtime into an interactive feast. Originating from a blend of local and foreign influences, Vietnamese hot pot, or “lẩu,” has become a culinary celebration that brings people together.

We’re excited to share our take on this vibrant dish, perfect for chilly evenings or whenever you’re in the mood for a comforting, communal meal. With a variety of ingredients that simmer in a flavorful broth, each bite is a discovery of new textures and tastes. Whether you’re a seasoned hot pot enthusiast or new to this delightful experience, we’ve got you covered with tips and tricks to make your hot pot adventure unforgettable. Let’s dive into the warm, welcoming world of Vietnamese hot pot together.


Diving into the heart of Vietnamese hot pot, or “lẩu,” begins with gathering the right ingredients. Here, we’ll navigate through the essential components needed to construct this communal feast.

Broth Ingredients

  • 8 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, bruised and chopped into 4-inch pieces
  • 4 slices of ginger, approximately 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Combine these ingredients to create a savory and aromatic foundation that’s both inviting and warm. The broth is the soul of the hot pot, setting the stage for the flavors of the added ingredients.

Meat and Seafood Selection

  • 1 pound thinly sliced beef, such as rib eye or sirloin
  • 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 pound squid, cleaned and cut into rings
  • 1/2 pound chicken, thinly sliced

Protein adds not only richness and depth to the hot pot but also variety, allowing diners to customize their experience. Ensure meats and seafood are sliced thinly for quick cooking directly in the bubbling broth.

Vegetable Assortment

  • 1/2 pound Napa cabbage, sliced
  • 1/2 pound bok choy, sliced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, such as enoki or shiitake
  • 1 cup tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 bunch scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Fresh herbs: cilantro, Thai basil, and mint

Vegetables and herbs offer freshness, crisp textures, and a balance to the meat’s richness. They’re quickly cooked in the hot broth, maintaining their vibrant colors and nutritional value.

  • Hoisin sauce
  • Sriracha or chili paste for heat
  • Lime wedges for acidity
  • Fish sauce for umami
  • Chopped peanuts for crunch

Customizing each bite with various dipping sauces and condiments is part of the joy of hot pot. Whether it’s adding a spicy kick with Sriracha or a tangy zest with lime, these finishing touches enhance the overall flavor profile.

Necessary Equipment

Creating a Vietnamese hot pot, or “lẩu”, isn’t just about having the right ingredients. To truly embrace and enjoy this culinary tradition, having the correct equipment plays an essential role. Let’s delve into what you’ll need to make your hot pot experience as authentic and enjoyable as possible.

Hot Pot Cookware

The centerpiece of a Vietnamese hot pot meal is, unsurprisingly, the hot pot itself. There are many types available, from traditional clay pots to modern electric hot pots. We recommend using an electric hot pot for its ease of temperature control and portability. Look for a model that has a divider if you wish to enjoy two types of broth at once.

Portable Burner

If you opt for a non-electric hot pot, you’ll need a portable burner to keep the broth simmering at the table. Gas burners are popular as they heat up quickly and offer a more authentic feel to the hot pot experience. Ensure you have sufficient gas cartridges on hand to avoid running out mid-meal.

Ladles and Skimmers

To serve the broth and fish out cooked ingredients, you’ll need several ladles and skimmers. Opt for long-handled ones to avoid getting too close to the hot broth. Skimmers are especially useful for removing smaller items and excess foam from the broth to keep it clear.

Chopsticks and Soup Spoons

No hot pot meal would be complete without chopsticks and soup spoons. We suggest providing each diner with their own set. Bamboo chopsticks are a great, authentic choice, while metal ones are more durable and reusable. Soup spoons with long handles are ideal for enjoying the flavorful broth.

Dipping Sauce Bowls

Customizing each bite with various dipping sauces is part of the hot pot charm. Provide small bowls for each diner to mix their own sauce concoctions. Common bases include hoisin sauce, chili sauce, and fish sauce. Add-ins like minced garlic, lime wedges, and chopped peanuts allow everyone to personalize their flavors further.

Plates and Serving Dishes

Finally, you’ll need plates and serving dishes for the raw ingredients awaiting their turn in the bubbling broth. Separate dishes for different types of meat, seafood, vegetables, and tofu help keep everything organized and ensure a smooth cooking experience for your guests.

Preparation Steps

With our key ingredients and equipment ready, it’s time to dive into the heart of preparing a Vietnamese hot pot, ensuring every element contributes to a flavorful and communal dining experience.

Preparing the Broth Base

We’ll start by making our broth base, the soul of the hot pot. Here’s how we do it:

  1. Gather Ingredients: For the broth, you’ll need about 2 liters of water, 2 stalks of lemongrass (lightly smashed), 4 slices of ginger, 1 onion (quartered), and 3 tablespoons of fish sauce for that umami depth.
  2. Simmer the Broth: In a large pot, bring the water to a gentle boil. Add the lemongrass, ginger, and onion to the water. Lower the heat and let it simmer for about 20-30 minutes. This slow cooking process allows the flavors to infuse beautifully.
  3. Season the Broth: Add the fish sauce, taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Remember, the broth should be a bit stronger in flavor as it will be the base for all other ingredients.
  4. Strain and Serve: Once the broth is aromatic and flavorful, strain out the solids. Keep the broth hot on a portable burner at your dining table, ready for everyone to cook their chosen ingredients.

Marinating the Meats

Infusing meats with flavors is key to a delightful hot pot. Here’s our approach:

  1. Prepare Marinade: Mix together 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of rice wine, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and 1 teaspoon of minced garlic for each pound of meat. You can use thinly sliced beef, chicken, or even seafood.
  2. Marinate: Toss your chosen meats in the marinade ensuring each piece is well-coated. Let them marinate for at least 30 minutes, or for the best results, leave them in the fridge overnight covered with cling film.
  3. Arrange: After marinating, arrange the meats on a plate, ready to be cooked in the hot broth by your guests.

Washing and Cutting Vegetables

Fresh vegetables not only add color but also texture and nutrition to the hot pot feast. Let’s prepare them:

  1. Selection: Choose a variety of vegetables like Napa cabbage, bok choy, mushrooms, spinach, and thinly sliced carrots for a balanced mix.
  2. Wash: Thoroughly rinse all vegetables under cold running water to remove any dirt or grit. It’s crucial for ensuring clean, grit-free dishes.
  3. Cut: Cut the larger leaves into bite-sized pieces, keeping in mind they should be easy to pick up with chopsticks. Carrots can be thinly sliced or cut into flower shapes for an aesthetic touch.
  4. Arrange: Neatly arrange the vegetables on a large platter. This not only looks inviting but also makes it easy for guests to select their favorites to cook in the broth.

By carefully preparing each element of our Vietnamese hot pot, from the rich and aromatic broth to the marinated meats and fresh vegetables, we set the stage for an unforgettable dining experience. Let’s get ready to immerse ourselves in the joy of cooking together and sharing a meal that’s more than just food—it’s an expression of culture and community.

Assembling the Hot Pot

After carefully preparing the broth, meat, and vegetables, we’re now at the exciting phase of assembling our Vietnamese hot pot. It’s all about bringing the components together for a communal feast.

Setting the Table

First things first, let’s set the stage for our hot pot experience. Place the hot pot at the center of the table on a portable burner. Ensure it’s stable and safe to avoid any mishaps during the meal. Fill the pot with the fragrant broth we made earlier, setting it to a medium heat so it can reach a gentle simmer. Invite everyone to take a seat around the table, providing each person with a set of chopsticks, a soup ladle, and a bowl. This setup not only facilitates easy access to the hot pot but also encourages a bustling yet intimate dining atmosphere.

Arranging Ingredients for Easy Access

To ensure a smooth and enjoyable hot pot experience, organizing the ingredients around the pot is key. Arrange the plates of marinated meats, seafood, and tofu on one side of the pot. On the other side, place an array of washed and cut vegetables, mushrooms, and noodles. It’s important to position these ingredients within arm’s reach of everyone at the table, so they can easily add what they like into the pot. Don’t forget to set out small bowls of dipping sauces and fresh herbs by each plate for delightful flavor enhancements. As the broth simmers, we’ll take turns placing our chosen ingredients into the pot to cook, then fish them out once they’re ready. This communal way of cooking and sharing food fosters conversation and brings us closer together, making each meal a memorable experience.

Cooking the Viet Hot Pot

Now that we’ve set the stage for our Viet hot pot adventure, let’s dive into the heart of the cooking process. This part is where flavors meld, conversations flow, and memories are made.

Starting with the Broth

Our journey begins with the broth, the soul of the hot pot. We’ll start by bringing our prepared broth to a gentle simmer directly in the hot pot on the dining table’s portable burner. It’s crucial to keep the broth at a slight simmer throughout the dining experience. Remember, this isn’t just about cooking; it’s about infusing the broth with more depth and character with every ingredient that takes a dip in it. The broth’s inviting aroma of lemongrass, ginger, and onion will fill the air, setting the stage for a flavorful feast.

Sequence of Adding Ingredients

With our broth simmering nicely, it’s time to introduce the ingredients. There’s a bit of an art to the order of adding them to ensure everything cooks perfectly. Start with the items that take the longest to cook—think root vegetables and thick cuts of meat. Give these a few minutes head start before adding quicker-cooking ingredients like thinly sliced meats, seafood, and leafy greens. This way, the sturdier ingredients have time to release their flavors into the broth, while the delicate ones, added later, retain their texture and essence.

Monitoring the Heat

Keeping an eye on the heat is key to a successful Viet hot pot experience. The goal is to maintain a constant simmer, ensuring the broth doesn’t boil too vigorously or cool down too much, which can affect cooking times and flavors. Adjust the flame as necessary, higher to bring it back to a simmer or lower to keep it gently bubbling. This dance of heat control not only cooks the ingredients to perfection but also keeps the broth at the ideal temperature for savoring every ladleful.

Serving the Viet Hot Pot

Now that our flavorful broth has simmered to perfection and all ingredients are prepped and ready, it’s time to dive into the heart of the Viet hot pot experience: the serving process. This is where the magic happens, with everyone gathered around, ready to partake in this communal feast.

Ladling the Broth

The first step in serving is ladling the aromatic broth into each diner’s bowl. We always ensure the broth is bubbling hot, filled with the essence of lemongrass, ginger, and onion, to start off the meal right. Carefully pour the broth to cover the bottom of the bowls, awakening the senses and setting the stage for the ingredients to be added.

Creating Personalized Bowls

One of the beauties of Viet hot pot is the ability to create personalized bowls. Each diner can tailor their bowl to their liking, choosing from the array of meats, seafood, tofu, and vegetables we’ve prepared. We encourage starting with the meats or seafood, allowing them to cook in the hot broth right in the bowl, followed by vegetables that cook quicker. This way, everyone gets exactly what they crave, cooked to their desired doneness.

Dipping Sauce Etiquette

An integral part of the Viet hot pot experience is the accompanying dipping sauces. We set out a variety of sauces—soy sauce, fish sauce, and a special spicy hoisin sauce—along with small plates for mixing individualized concoctions. The etiquette here is simple: dip sparingly at first, tasting as you go, to fully appreciate the depth of flavors from the broth and ingredients themselves. It’s all about enhancing, not overpowering, the delicate balance of flavors that have been carefully built up in the pot.

Make-Ahead Tips

Preparing a Vietnamese hot pot, or lẩu, is all about the joy of sharing a meal with loved ones. To ensure everything goes smoothly on the day of your gathering, we’ve got some make-ahead tips that will save you time and enhance the flavors of your hot pot.

Preparing the Broth Base

The soul of any hot pot is its broth. A day before your gathering, start by simmering the lemongrass, ginger, and onion to create a rich and aromatic base. Once it’s ready, strain out the solids and store the broth in the refrigerator overnight. This not only saves you time on the day but also allows the flavors to meld beautifully, giving you a broth with depth and character.

Marinating the Meats

Marinating your meats the night before can significantly elevate your hot pot experience. Mix your choice of meats with classic Vietnamese flavors such as fish sauce, garlic, and a pinch of sugar. Store the marinated meats in airtight containers in the refrigerator. This enhances the meat’s flavors and tenderizes it, ensuring every bite is packed with savory goodness.

Washing and Cutting Vegetables

Another time-saver is to wash and cut all your vegetables a day in advance. Leafy greens, mushrooms, and other hot pot vegetables can be cleaned, chopped, and stored in separate containers in the fridge. This not only saves time but also ensures that you have a variety of fresh vegetables ready to go into the pot as soon as your guests arrive.

Preparing Dipping Sauces

Dipping sauces are essential to the hot pot experience. Prepare your favorite sauces – be it a tangy fish sauce with lime juice and chili or a savory peanut sauce – a day ahead. These sauces can be refrigerated and then served at room temperature, allowing all the flavors to come together perfectly and saving you time for more important things, like enjoying your guests’ company.

Viet Hot Pot Variations

Exploring the world of Vietnamese hot pot, we find delightful variations that cater to different preferences and dietary needs. Whether you’re a seafood lover or following a vegetarian lifestyle, there’s a hot pot variation just for you.

Seafood-Only Hot Pot

For those who crave the bounties of the sea, a Seafood-Only Hot Pot brings the ocean’s freshest flavors to your table. We start by selecting a variety of seafood like shrimp, scallops, squid, and firm fish such as salmon or sea bass. These are not just rich in flavor but also add a visually appealing variety to the pot.


  • 1 lb of shrimp, deveined and shells on for extra flavor
  • 1 lb of scallops
  • 1 lb of squid, cleaned and cut into rings
  • 1 lb of firm fish like salmon or sea bass, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 8 cups of seafood or vegetable broth, to keep the flavors light and complementary
  • Lemongrass, ginger, and onion as the aromatic base for our broth
  • Fresh herbs like cilantro and dill, alongside lime wedges for garnish and added zest

Preparation Steps

  1. Begin by preparing the seafood, ensuring everything is cleaned, cut, and ready to be dipped into the boiling broth.
  2. Simmer the seafood or vegetable broth with lemongrass, ginger, and onion to infuse it with aromatic flavors.
  3. Arrange the seafood, fresh herbs, and lime wedges on a platter for guests to select and cook in the simmering broth.
  4. Serve the hot pot with a variety of dipping sauces that complement the sweetness of the seafood, such as soy sauce with minced garlic or a tangy fish sauce mix.

This variation not only showcases the flavors of the sea but also brings a lighter, delicate option to the hot pot tradition.

Vegetarian Hot Pot

Embracing the richness of vegetables, tofu, and mushrooms, the Vegetarian Hot Pot is a hearty, flavorful option that promises satisfaction. This version is not only about substituting meat with vegetables but also about enhancing the broth to ensure depth and umami.

  • A selection of vegetables such as bok choy, spinach, mushrooms, and carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Different types of tofu – firm and silken for variety
  • Mushrooms, especially varieties like shiitake and enoki, for their meaty texture and flavor
  • 8 cups of a robust vegetable broth as the base, enriched with lemongrass, ginger, and soy sauce for an umami kick
  • Fresh herbs and lime wedges for garnishing and added freshness
  • Prepare all the vegetables and tofu


    We’ve taken you through the vibrant world of Vietnamese hot pot, from its cultural roots to the delicious variations you can explore. Whether you’re drawn to the traditional flavors or excited to try the seafood and vegetarian options, there’s no doubt that this communal meal can bring people together. Remember, the key to a great hot pot lies in the preparation and the joy of sharing it with others. So next time you’re looking for a unique dining experience, why not gather your friends and family and dive into the rich flavors of lẩu? It’s more than just a meal; it’s a celebration of togetherness and culinary adventure.

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