Kitchen & Pantry

Fondue, hotpot and shabu-shabu

Fondue, hotpot and shabu-shabu all refer to a dish that consists of a communal pot at the center of the diners where small pieces of meat, seafood, vegetables, fruit or bread are dipped. Fondue is Swiss in origin (some say French); hotpot is Chinese; shabu-shabu is the Japanese version of the hotpot. While the Asian communal hotpots contain simmering broth, the Swiss caquelon contains cheese melted in white wine. The fondue and the Chinese hotpot were originally peasant food. The Chinese hotpot has the longest history.

Mongolian hot pot was originated from northern nomadic tribes. The Mongolian version of the steaming feast has been called the father of all Chinese hot pot. The Chinese hot pot boasts a history of more than 1000 years and built its popularity during the Tang Dynasty…

According to the same article, there are several versions of the Chinese hotpot today, including Mongolian-style (main ingredient is mutton), Sichuan-style (spicy) and Cantonese-style (sweeter and has more seafood).

A Fondue Party: With a cheese fondue on the table, have fun dunking bread and meat in the gooey cheese

The issue of the origin of fondue is a but bit more complicated and its earliest form appears to be a lot different from what it is today. Based on the writings of Brillat-Savarin, fondue was a cross between a soft omelet and a souffle.

Today, of course, the fondue, hotpot and shabu-shabu are anything but peasant or humble. They are feasts. And they are fun.

Fun? Why, yes! The thing about these communal feasts is the casual atmosphere. You don’t have to worry about which fork to use next or whether to have the vegetables and bread before or after the meat or seafood. Anything goes. And because everyone sits and eats at the same table, conversation (and bantering) is centralized and there is that conspicuous sense of togetherness.

A Fondue Party: With a cheese fondue on the table, have fun dunking bread and meat in the gooey cheese

Last month, on the same day that we had that delectable birthday salad and scrumptious oysters a la Rockefeller, we also had cheese fondue later in the day — sometime between lunch and dinner.

A Fondue Party: With a cheese fondue on the table, have fun dunking bread and meat in the gooey cheese

We dunked cubes of crusty bread, sausage slices and fruits into the melted cheese.

A Fondue Party: With a cheese fondue on the table, have fun dunking bread and meat in the gooey cheese

We were already eating merrily (we had already consumed tons of Tequila sunrise by that time) when someone — I forget who — remarked that we should have a good wine to go with the fondue. Speedy said of course we should have Pastis! He always has a bottle of Pastis, a French anise-flavored liqueur and apéritif, lying around somewhere.

A Fondue Party: With a cheese fondue on the table, have fun dunking bread and meat in the gooey cheese

It was so much fun that I’m now thinking of having an Asian hotpot sometime during the holidays. I have to ask Speedy what kid of burner we can place at the center of the dining table…

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