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Everything You Need to Fire Up a Dazzling Hot Pot Feast at Home

Maiko Kyogoku, owner of New York restaurant Bessou, shares her favorite tools and product picks

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A donabe hot pot meal at Bessou
A donabe hot pot meal at Bessou

“Bessou” means “holiday home” in Japanese, so it’s fitting that restaurant owner Maiko Kyogoku and executive chef Emily Yuen specialize in cozy homestyle Japanese food at their New York restaurant of the same name. One of Bessou’s signature dishes is hot pot, with a seasonally rotating cast of ingredients that might include scallops, tofu, and thick-cut bacon or spicy prawns, crab legs, and enoki mushrooms, along with noodles, vegetables, and various broths.

But hot pot is not a restaurant-only meal by any means. “I grew up doing this at home,” says Kyogoku. “We would often make [varieties like] shabu shabu or sukiyaki by throwing together whatever we had lying around the kitchen. Hot pot can be fancy, but it’s often very casual, and because you cook together, it’s very intimate. Some of my best food memories are from making hot pot dinners at home with my family.”

Firing up a hands-on hot pot feast at home is easy, but it does require the right tools. Kyogoku not only has years of hot pot experience in her own home but also happens to have a finely honed aesthetic, which is reflected in the beautiful-yet-functional items at Bessou. Here, she shares her product picks for a hot pot feast of your own design.

A portable stove burner

“You can’t do a hot pot dinner at home by cooking it in the kitchen! Hot pot is interactive and meant to be cooked at the table, with everyone grabbing for that last piece of meat. It’s a time for friends and family to gather and create the meal together, which you can’t do without a portable stovetop. This one is basic, but pretty much essential.”

Buy Iwatani ZA-3HP Portable Butane Stove Burner, $36.37

A minimalist donabe hot pot

“Donabes withstand countless uses, and they’re very durable. Similar to a cast iron or Dutch oven, they insulate heat well. There are more intricate designs out there, but I think this one, with its cracked porcelain design, is beautiful in its minimalism and utilitarianism. It’s what we use at the restaurant, and also what I used growing up, so I have a bit of an attachment to this style. I like to keep the donabe pot simple to highlight what’s inside.”

Buy Korin Sumikannyu Donabe, $21

An elegant wooden serving spoon

“I like the aesthetics of this spoon. It’s pretty shallow, not like a ladle — you use it more to grab the ingredients inside the hotpot. It’s also great to use in place of a regular Chinese soup soup, especially if you want more broth, or use a deeper bowl for each person.”

Buy MTC Kitchen Wooden Serving Spoon, $4

Super-functional bamboo tongs

“We also use these at the restaurant — for me, part of the aesthetics of a Japanese home and meal are about keeping it very natural. I think it helps with the tablescape. These are great for picking up noodles or slippery ingredients; they give you a better grip than chopsticks, and can be used in combination with the spoon above.”

Buy Korin Bamboo Tongs, $5.90

Hand-painted donburi bowls

“Set the table with these beautiful donburi bowls, which are large enough for any hot pot stew and all of its soupy contents. ‘Donburi’ means large rice bowl, or one-bowl meal, and I like that you can easily use these for all kinds of meals. The larger size gives you a sense of heartiness, and the hand-painted design fits into that natural aesthetic.”

Buy MTC Kitchen Donburi Bowl with Lines, $6

MCT Kitchen

Bamboo chopsticks

“Certain elements give a little pop to the table, like this — the design is subtle, but the lines provide such a pretty color. Reusable chopsticks are a good investment for any home, not just for eating hot pot, but also for beating eggs, picking things out of hot oil, stirring things in pots and pans, and more. Plus, they don’t take up a lot of space — embrace the chopsticks!”

Buy Crate & Barrel Striped Bamboo Chopsticks, set of five pairs, $5.95

Vintage fabric table mats

“Kiriko is an Oregon-based company that sources vintage fabric from Japan and turns it into accessories and products. At Bessou, we use their bandanas for the kitchen staff. These table mats are beautiful and very thick, so they’re durable, and I love the cross-stitch pattern, which reminds me of old kimono fabric.”

Buy Kiriko Kasuri-Ori Table Mat, $29

Crate and Barrel chopsticks; Kiriko table mats

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