Time: 1 hour || Active time: 30 minutes
Autumn in Omaha is slightly magical. The light seems to come in two varieties, silver or gold, and sometimes the glow makes it feel like the prairies are threatening to take over; the concrete will start falling away and luscious grasses will spring up everywhere, wildflowers and meadow as far as the eye can see.
It was a day like this when these flavors seemed to possess me. I was planning on a simple soup for lunch, standing in the produce aisle, examining some veggie or other, when seemingly out of nowhere, my senses were overtaken by star anise, lemongrass, ginger. Then the words formed on my lips: hot pot. The name alone should win you over on a rainy autumn day.
I first had Hot Pot at a Vietnamese restaurant, and you often see it on menus called “Mongolian Hot Pot.” But I’m not going to get into the history, primarily because I only have a GED, but also because I want to get to the fun part. The experience!
The idea is similiar to fondue. A simmering vessel of rich broth surrounded by delicious tidbits that you can mix and match in your own bowl. You can totally dip, too, but I think it’s more satisfying (and perhaps neater) to have your own little serving.
If you’re looking at the ingredients list and thinking that you don’t have any of these items laying around your kitchen, can I appeal to the part of you that looks past pantry ingredients, and speak to your heart instead? It is always worth it to branch out and add new things to your repertoire. It doesn’t have to be this recipe, maybe you grew up eating star anise and lemongrass, but remember to try something new on occasion. Great cooking, like a great road movie, isn’t always about the destination – half the fun is just getting there.
That being said, this isn’t particularly time consuming or anything, and all of the ingredients can easily be found at Whole Foods. They’re not very expensive, either!
I use dried shiitakes because they have an even more concentrated flavor than fresh and they’re also much cheaper. And since hot pot is often served with thinly sliced meats, these meaty morsels really do the job.
And speaking of prairie grasses, have you cooked much with lemongrass? It adds a sultry perfume to stews, and it’s really just a fun ingredient to work with. Who doesn’t want to walk around the grocery store with tall stalks of grass poking out of their cart? You only use the inner core of the the bulb at the very bottom of the stalk. Peel away the outer leaves until you get to the smooth, cool, core. Cut off a sliver of the bottom, and mince. You’ll probably need 3 stalks for this recipe. You can also reserve the rest of the stalk for a broth.
And if you’re not going in for the whole ceremony of it, that’s fine, too. At it’s most basic, this is just a really delicious soup that will warm you right up. I’d say that the only necessary serving suggestions are the fresh herbs, everything else is up to you in terms of what you have time for, how many people you’re serving and how hungry everyone is.
And one last thing, I don’t actually have a fondue pot or anything. You can just place the pot on a trivet in the middle of the table. It won’t have a chance to get cold!
4 cups mushroom or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon organic cornstarch
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil (regular vegetable oil will do, too)
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
Big pinch salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced lemongrass
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 star anise
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 oz dried shiitakes
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari to make it gluten free)
1 roughly chopped tomato
Fresh black pepper
15 oz can lite coconut milk
Juice of half a lime
To serve (obviously just pick and choose, these are just suggestions):
Cooked rice noodles or jasmine rice
Fresh basil (thai basil if you can find it)
Grilled tofu (seasoned simply with sesame oil, black pepper and salt)
Cooked aduki beans
Thinly sliced sauteed seitan
Steamed broccoli or cauliflower
Finely sliced bok choy
Extra wedges of fresh lime
Preheat a 4 quart pot over medium heat. Mix the cornstarch into the broth and set aside (this is easiest if you just mix it into about a cup of broth, then pour the rest of the broth in.) Saute onion and pepper in the oil with a big pinch of salt, until onions are soft, about 5 minutes.
Add garlic, lemongrass, ginger and red pepper flakes and mix in. Cook until fragrant, about a minute, then stream in the broth/cornstarch mixture and add most of the other ingredients: star anise, cinnamon, shiitakes, soy sauce, tomatoes and fresh black pepper. Stir often for the first 10 minutes or so, until the cornstarch has thickened the broth a bit. Now cover pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to simmer and cook covered for a good half hour, until mushrooms are completely softened.
Add coconut milk and lime, and taste for salt. Heat through and serve with fresh herbs and other accoutrement.
We have dried lemongrass, still in stick form. It’s in a little spice-type jar. I wonder if I would have to use less? Looks amazing. Am going to try it tonight. Thanks, Isa.
I can’t even begin to tell you how AMAZING this tasted! Of course I guess you already know. Thanks for sharing!
This was sooooo tasty! Definitly one that I shall be having over and over again. And to think, before I had heard of you I ate nothing but chips and bread and I didn’t like tofu!
yeah! hot pot for a cold winter! that’s nice.
WOW! Once again, you have hit the spot, Isa. I have been moving towards vegan for 3 weeks now, and your cookbooks have saved me from boring cooking. My husband, who has a very discerning palate (meaning, it has gotta be good), agrees. THanks so much!
I just made this for dinner and it was very very delicious. I did use 1 tbs of dried lemongrass instead of fresh and used 1 tbs arrowroot powder instead of the corn starch (I do not eat corn). Also used full fat coconut milk SO fabulous.
whole foods didn’t have whole star anise pods…so i bought the star anise seeds instead. how much should i use?
Star anise seeds or anise seeds? They’re different things!
oh. uhoh. just anise seeds. sounds like that’s the wrong thing :/
p.s. you’re the bomb.
This looks awesome. And I like that you say to save the lemon grass stalks for stock or broth. I use all the outside and top tough leaves to make lemon grass tea. It’s great with a little sweetener, especially with Asian or Mexican food.
Yes, totally! I toss my stems in the freezer and use them in broth or brew.
i made this for Thanksgiving, being vegan and on a diet (–for so long now, my stomach couldn’t take much more than soup!–), and this was ABSOLUTELY TO DIE FOR. OMG. As i recall, i used more garlic and more ginger, and i didn’t have a tomato so i used a can of Muir Glen diced tomatoes. (They got the highest rating on America’s Test Kitchen–Muir Glen is expensive, but so worth it. And Target has the lowest prices i’ve found on the brand.) OH–and i also went crazy with the mushrooms, and added creminis and white buttons, as well. TO DIE FOR, did i mention that already? Btw, i froze the leftovers, and i’ll let you know how the defrosted version turns out! (ps, i have a very lame fledgling vegan blog, not nearly as glorious as yours!!! But i guess ya gotta start somewhere. Also, my photos suck. 🙂 )
I just finished making this,it was really delicious and flavorful with nice heat. When I first tasted it, my dried shiitakes were very chewy so I had the idea to immersion blend the whole soup. After blending it I strained it and was left with a “Hot Pot Bisque”. Wow! This was the first time I’ve posted but I think I’ve made about 10-15 of your recipes now. They are full proof. Thanks Isa!
Hey folks–this freezes and defrosts very well, so FEAR NOT! Make tons and save it, or give it away as gifts, too. I know i did! (It was hard to give it away, though, as i wanted to keep it ALL TO MYSELF.)
Damn Gurrlll!! You are the bomb-diggity!! The first recipe I glanced the first time at your site and I’m hooked.
I finally made this soup and it is forking delicious! I would recommend if you’re making it with the noodles to cook them separately then add them at the end. we hadn’t made the rice noodles before so had no idea they would suck up so much liquid and ended up with a super thick soup. Still super yum though!
This was delicious. Yesterday I planned my menu for the week, and at the end I realized that all the recipes just happened to be from this blog. I think I’m going to become vegan by accident!
Looks delicious. love all the flavors in this – especially the lemongrass!
This could very well be the most amazing soup I’ve ever had!!!andmyapartment Smells like a million bucks! So glad my cousin in law turned me on to this site. Also love the dilly stew and the Shepherds pie. I’m not even vegan or vegetarian, but I feel like I could easily convert if it all tasted this good. No more veg stir fry for my veg friends when they come over!!
Just made this and it is amazing, I only used 1 star anise as I’m not a massive fan of the flavour, but my word, I could eat this every meal!
After looking through all these comments I want to make this so bad! It looks yummy! But I can’t have coconut milk, would soy milk substitute well?
Thank you so much for your blog! In the beginning of the year I found out I have food allergies (egg, milk, etc) and IBS that is leading me to being strictly vegan. Your recipes make learning to cook all over again worth it!
Absolutely delicious. I used 1.5 oz shiitake mushrooms because I love them. Even my very non-vegan husband who is addicted to pho from a nearby Vietnamese restaurant thought it was amazing. Thanks Isa I will be making this a lot!
This soup was AMAZING! I had some Kaffir Lime leaves and threw them into the broth. Delicious. Thanks for the recipe.
When I saw this recipe I had to try it! Looking at the ingredients though I almost didn’t – I really have hated anise up until this point! But having such good luck with other recipes from your blog I decided to try this, star anise and all! Honestly, I think the star anise was my favorite part of this dish!!
All of the flavors in this dish meld so well together – even my 3 and 4 year olds really enjoyed it…. warm and spicy! But that hint of star anise REALLY knocked my socks off!!
I used organic mushroom broth and a few handfuls of mixed dried mushrooms – shitake, oyster, porcini, morels and portabellos.
I can see this being a winter time staple! Even if you think you wouldn’t enjoy the star anise, give it a try!
I made this tonight and it was amazing! So easy and so delicious!!! Thank you!!!
this soup is AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!! thanks:)
Mary Jane Maharry
We just made this last night and it was delicious! The kids loved it without a little spice – but my husband and I spiced it a bit and it was even more yummy! Thanks so much
I made this last night and it tasted so good! I couldn’t find lemon grass or star anise in my local grocery store, so I skipped those. But even then, it was delicious! Thank you for posting this recipe 🙂
Hi Isa, I just wanted to stop by and thank you for this recipe. I’ve made this several times and it’s lovely. It’s become something of a staple for us. I make it whenever I’m in the mood for something comforting and chunky and with ‘texture’. It was also the first time I had ever had shiitakes and am in love.
This was soooo good!
Hi Isa! Made this over the weekend for a dinner with my sister and it was simply amazing!!! Thank you so much for your blog and cookbooks! When I need to make something that I know will impress, your work is the first that I turn to! You make being vegan both easy and delicious!
I made this tonight. Didn’t have lemongrass or bell pepper, but it still came out tasting wonderful. I want to eat the whole pot tonight, but I’m sure it will taste even better in the morning. Thank you so much for posting this!
Yay! Finally a use for my star anise! How exciting! Thanks for always being the best of all bloggers– you always know how to keep our tummies full 🙂
Holy crap, Isa. My hubby made this for dinner last night and it was AWESOME. For add-ins, we had rice noodles, cilantro, bean sprouts, toasted cashews, adzuki beans, roasted broccoli, and fresh lime juice. NOMNOMNOMNOMNOM!!!! It was super messy to eat with the rice noodles and the bean sprouts, but we slurped it happily and smiled our shiny soup smiles at eat other in tastebuddy delight. Thanks for yet another awesome dish.
is there a way to do this in a crockpot?
Just popped in to say that I have made this so many times now, to the point where I don’t even need to look at the recipe any more. It is one of my favourite dishes of all time 🙂 it’s so comforting in the winter, and yummy all year round (it’s summer here at the moment). I don’t even share it. My boyfriend isn’t into soups so I just whack it in containers and I get a week’s worth of lunches. So thank you Isa, for your wonderful recipe!
This is soooooo incredibly good! This is my favorite so far. I’ve made three soups so far from your site and every one has been absolutely fantastic. People think I am a good cook. Lol It’s not me, it’s your recipes. Thank you so much for such easy and flavorful recipes.
This is a great dish which with a little work can be made AMAZING!
First, I make my own mushroom broth. Just use some smashed garlic, the ends of your onion, ends of the carrot, smashed and then cut into 1/2 inch chunks of lemongrass, the anise, the skin of your ginger, lime leaf is great if you have it, and a dash of soy sauce, the stems and some mushrooms too of course! Boil all this for 20-40minutes. Taste it as you go, remember it’s easier to add more flavor later!
(you can also rehydrate mushrooms and use the water you soaked them in to make the mushroom broth!)
I also smash up and then mince some lemongrass which I add when cooking the garlic in the pan. I also love bok choy in this! it adds a lot of calcium! I also enjoy rice cooked in coconut milk with this, as I make it rather spicy!
Is there something I can use in place of star anise? I can’t stomach any licorice flavors.
This was very good! I think it will be amazing when next time I use star anise and use the exact amount of broth as stated in the recipe (I think I used too much). Also, I need to figure out the correct usage of creamed coconut when used instead of coconut milk. In any case, Isa, you literally improve my quality of life!
Made this last night…AWESOME!! My additions were soba noodles, fresh cilantro, limes, and basil. INCREDIBLES!!! I used baby portobellos. and sliced them thinly. Great dish!!! THANKS ISA!!!!
I just made this tonight, and it turned out great though I wasn’t able to do the recipe word for word – couldnt add the anise or lemongrass (budget is tight) and I also only have a 1qt soup pan, so what i did was just boil the tomatoes and the vegetable broth and corn startch, saute the onion and red pepper, then when they were all hot threw the rest in my crock pot for about 4 hours… and it turned out great!
So now I have another great vegan crock pot recipe!
This is, hands down, the best thing I ever ate. My new favorite!
Incredible recipe. All of the flavors come through very nicely. My belly is full of warmth & happiness. Thank you, Isa.