One of the most important skills an Asian chef can learn is how to prepare a delicious soup broth—and this is especially important in a hotpot restaurant.
A good stock is full of flavour and nutrition, and can be used as the base of many soups, sauces and other recipes. As a chef, you already know how to make a good stock. The question is, how can you make it better?
Give these 5 ingredients a try and see the difference they can make in your hotpot soup stocks.
Traditionally, chicken bones are a popular ingredient to add into soups as they do a great job of flavouring stocks. In a hotpot setting, you can toss in chicken parts—such as drumsticks or wings—into your chicken-based soup stocks.
In addition to adding more taste to your soups, the chicken parts can also be scooped up by diners and eaten as part of their hotpot dish. Alternatively, when diners order chicken dishes, your waitstaff can recommend that diners toss some of the parts into their soups to flavour it. This increased interaction also generally improves diners’ satisfaction levels towards waitstaff.
Seafood, particularly shellfish like prawns, can really enhance the taste of your hotpot soups. Be sure to offer diners a seafood-based soup as a choice, so crustacean-loving customers can get a soup they love.
Otherwise, your waitstaff can recommend that diners cook some prawns, mussels or other shellfish in their soup to transform its flavour over the course of a meal—adding more variety and fun to their dining experience.
If you’ve been throwing away scraps from tomatoes, onion peels, and the tops (or bottoms) of certain vegetables, stop! Keep these scraps and toss them into the next batch of soup stock you’re cooking up. Just be sure to avoid brassicas, as they’ll add a bitter taste to your stocks.
For presentation purposes, we only recommend using these scraps to prepare your basic soup vegetable soup stocks; avoid tossing them into diners’ hotpots (to keep your dishes looking attractive).
Chillies, Peppers and Other Spicy Ingredients
In today’s mala-loving culture, this category of ingredients will be an important part of your kitchen and several of your hotpot soup bases. In addition to the popular Szechuan mala soup base, Thai tom yum and Korean kimchi are also must-haves for fans of spicy hotpot meals.
To add exciting twists to these familiar recipes, consider experimenting with chillies, coriander, cumin or even curry powders!
Herbs are fantastic additions to stocks because they can subtly alter the taste of a broth—enough to be noticed, but not overpoweringly so. This makes them the perfect complement for stocks that are already full-flavoured, and just need a hint of something extra to complete their taste or smell.
Some herbs you can try mixing into your stocks include danggui, huaishan, wolfberries and red dates. As a bonus, these colourful herbs also help to improve the presentation of your soups. Many diners also believe that these herbs are good for blood circulation, detoxifying the body, boosting energy levels, and strengthening the immune system.