Cooking food at table in a communal pot of simmering stock has a very long history in Asia. The broths used in Chinese hot pots range from mild to firey (some elaborate hot pots offer more than one kind), and the ingredients cooked in the broth also are diverse, including thinly sliced beef, chicken, lamb or pork, many types of seafood, tofu, noodles, dumplings, mushrooms and all manner of vegetables, to name just some examples. Condiments like hoisin sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, shacha sauce or chili oil often accompany the meal.
Japanese nabemono include familiar dishes like sukiyaki and shabu shabu, in which paper thin slices of meat and vegetables are cooked in a kombu (kelp) flavored broth. At the conclusion of the meal (the shime), any leftover stock in the pot is combined with the remaining rice or noodles and eaten as a soup.
Cambodian hot pots are similar to those in China, except that the stock base is coconut milk. In Taiwan, hot pots may also be called shabu shabu when prepared in the Japanese style. Thai style hot pots, called Thai suki, are based on the Chinese model but borrow elements from Japanese nabemono and from Korean barbecue. They are served with Thai dipping sauces. Hot pot dishes also are popular in Vietnam and the Philippines.
In Europe, cooking at table in a portable, communal pot atop a candle or other heating element is called fondue, from the French verb fondre, or to melt. They are commonly associated with Switzerland’s cheese fondues, originally created as a way to use leftover bits of cheese, melted in the fondue pot (caquelon) with what’s left of last night’s wine and eaten as a dunk for stale bread. Fondue was popularized as a Swiss national dish by the Swiss Cheese Union (Schweizerische Kaseunion) in the 1930s and it has inspired interesting dining traditions, such as the penalties for losing a cube of bread in the caquelon, which might include buying a round of drinks, singing a song, or running naked through the snow.
Konrad Egli, a Swiss restauranteur, introduced fondue Bourguignonne at his New York City restaurant, Chalet Suisse, in the 1950s. He invented chocolate fondue in the mid 1960s as part of a promotion for Toblerone chocolate. Fondue also was promoted in the United States at the Swiss Pavilion’s Alpine Restaurant during the 1964 New York World’s Fair.