Craving the communal dining experience of hot pot but avoiding seafood? With myriad ingredients from leafy greens to thinly shaved beef simmering in the steaming broth, you might wonder – does hot pot have fish? As a fellow seafood avoider, I’ve had to navigate the fish factor when enjoying hot pots around the world.
While classic hot pot does include some seafood like shrimp and squid, the good news is that not all versions contain fish. Many spots offer plenty of fish-free options. The key is knowing what to look for on the menu and how to customize your hot pot experience.
In this article, I’ll share pro tips for indulging in hot pot without the fish including:
- Regional hot pots more likely to include fish
- Tips for avoiding fish-based broths
- Going fully pescatarian with vegetarian or mushroom broth
- Fish-free protein and veggie ingredients to load your pot with
Whether for dietary reasons or taste preferences, you can still partake in the bonding experience of hot pot without the fishy business. Read on for my guide to keeping it fish-free! Then gather your friends around a steaming, bubbling cauldron of
Regional Hot Pots More Likely to Contain Fish
With countless regional variations, not all hot pots take the pescatarian route. Here are styles more likely to include fish:
Japanese Shabu Shabu
Japanese-style hot pot often features:
- Dashibroth – made with bonito fish flakes
- Sliced raw fish – salmon, snapper, tuna
- Seafood tofu – made with fish paste
Fish-free swaps: Miso broth, sliced chicken or beef, regular tofu
Thai Tom Yum Hot Pot
Thai tom yum hot pot contains:
- Seafood tom yum broth – made with fish sauce, shrimp paste
- Mixed seafood – fish cakes, fish balls, shrimp
Fish-free swaps: Tom yum broth without fish sauce, chicken balls, mushrooms
Chinese Sour & Spicy Hot Pot
Chinese sour and spicy broth features:
- Sour broth – fermented fish paste or fish sauce
- Fish and seafood – fish tofu, fish balls
Fish-free swaps: Sour vinegar broth, chicken balls, sliced meat
Takeaway: Check Regional Broths & Common Proteins
When trying new regional hot pots, inspect broths and common proteins for hidden fish ingredients. Then request swaps to fish-free alternatives.
Selecting a Fish-Free Broth
The foundation of hot pot lies in its steaming, flavor-packed broth. Avoid fishy broths by choosing:
- Pork bone broth – Rich and mildly sweet
- Beef bone broth – Hearty with beefy essence
- Chicken broth – Lighter poultry broth
- Malatang spicy broth – Chili oil, Sichuan peppers, no fish sauce
- Mala numbing broth – Chili peppers and Sichuan peppers
- Kimchi broth – Korean version without fish sauce
- Mushroom broth – Shiitake, porcini, wood ear mushrooms
- Vegetable broth – Carrots, onions, celery, mushrooms
- Tom yum broth – Lemongrass, galangal, lime – no fish sauce
Takeaway: Opt for Meat, Spicy, or Veg Broths
Scan broth ingredients before ordering. Request swaps like mushroom instead of fish broth.
Picking Fish-Free Proteins & Veggies
Once you’ve secured a fishless broth, fill your hot pot with flavorful proteins and crisp vegetables:
- Thinly sliced beef – Ribeye, brisket, flank
- Thinly sliced lamb – Leg, shoulder, belly
- Chicken breast – Lean sliced chicken
- Meatballs – Pork, chicken, or beef
- Tofu – Firm, soft, or fried tofu cubes
- Mushrooms – Shiitake, oyster, enoki
- Leafy greens – Spinach, choy sum, bok choy
- Mushrooms – All varieties
- Vermicelli noodles – Rice or mung bean thread noodles
- Crunchy cabbages – Bok choy, napa cabbage
- Root veggies – Carrots, sweet potato, potato
Takeaway: Load Up on Other Proteins & Veggies
With flavorful broth as your base, fill your hot pot to the brim with beef, chicken, greens and mushrooms.
Communicating With Your Hot Pot Spot
If dining out, call ahead to communicate your fish-free needs:
- Ask if they can accommodate fish allergies
- Request mushroom, pork or veggie based broth
- Verify no bonito in broth, no fish ingredients
- Ask to substitute all fish items with chicken, beef, tofu
- Politely reiterate your allergy when ordering
With the right broth and mix of land proteins and vegetables, you can relax and enjoy fantastic fishless hot pot.
Fish-Free Hot Pot Tips
Follow these tips for fabulous fish-free hot pot every time:
- Bring your own – Broth bases, rice noodles, mushrooms, meat
- Call ahead – Confirm broth ingredients and fishless options
- Substitute seafood – With chicken, beef, pork, or mushrooms
- Choose veg-based broths – Mushroom, kimchi, tom yum, veggie
- Load up on proteins – Beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, pork
- Pick fresh veggies – Spinach, cabbage, mushrooms, potatoes, radish
- Check labels – Scan for fish sauce, bonito, seafood ingredients
- Ask questions – Politely reiterate your allergy or diet
Sample Fish-Free Hot Pots To Try
Here are some delicious fishless hot pots to enjoy:
- Mala Hot Pot – Spicy Sichuan chilis and peppercorns
- Kimchi Hot Pot – Korean kimchi and pork
- Tom Yum Hot Pot – Thai lemongrass and chicken
- Mushroom Miso Hot Pot – Japanese dashi and mushrooms
- Spicy Beef Hot Pot – Spiced chili broth with sliced beef
- Veggie Tofu Hot Pot – Vegetable broth loaded with tofu and veggies
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some common fish ingredients to avoid in hot pot?
Watch out for fish balls, fish tofu, fish cakes, bonito flakes, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and seafood broths.
What if my whole table orders seafood hot pot?
Request your own mini fish-free hot pot divider so you can enjoy your own broth and ingredients. Many hot pot restaurants offer split pots.
Is it rude to make a lot of substitutions and customizations?
Not at all! Servers understand dietary restrictions – just be polite in requesting changes. Avoid busier times if possible.
What are the best fish substitutes to use?
Chicken, turkey, beef and pork all pair well with hot pot. For “seafood” texture, use mushrooms like king trumpet or abalone mushrooms.
Is it easy to find fish-free instant hot pot broths?
Yes, many instant broths clearly label “vegetarian” and list ingredients. Double check packets for fish sauce though. Homemade broth is ideal.
Bring On the Fish-Free Feasting
Armed with this guide, you can confidently enjoy communal fish-free hot pot anytime. Savor the spicy, aromatic broth brimming with tender proteins and fresh veggies – seafood not required. Gather good friends and dig into a new fishless hot pot adventure. Just be sure to double check your broth, bring your own ingredients, ask questions and enjoy flavors free of the fish!