Although it’s sometimes called “Chinese fondue” there’s really nothing Asian about the fondue traditionally consumed in Canada! Are you interested in exploring this culinary tradition a little more? Whether you try out just a few different herbs or ingredients, you’ll be delighted with the possibilities available to you! All of these options work fairly well with traditional store-bought fondue broths.
However, you can also take your fondue experience to the next level with a homemade oriental broth that will take your taste buds to 7th heaven!
1- Fall in love with exotic vegetables!
We love broccoli—but for a great Asian fondue, why not try its Chinese counterpart, gai lan? Generally available in big box grocery stores, enoki and shiitake mushrooms, baby bok choy and bean sprouts are equally delicious. Surprising as it may sound, even romaine lettuce is particularly tasty in fondue, as it retains its crunch when coated with a generous amount of broth.
Are you lucky enough to live near an Asian grocery store? Sweet purple potato (ube), lotus root, daikon and Chinese eggplant provide an unsuspected delicacy. Don’t forget the store’s freezer section and central aisles: frozen edamame and bamboo hearts also compliment your next meal, like in this fabulous Peanut Chicken Fondue!
2- Use rice noodles!
No matter their size, rice noodles are an absolute must in Asian fondues because they absorb broth well while bursting with flavour. While some noodles, like angel hair, can be cooked directly in the broth in less than 3 minutes, the majority of pasta benefits from being blanched in advance in order to reduce the cooking time and to prevent it from breaking down and absorbing too much of your amazing broth. Always partially cook them in a very large amount of boiling water and rinse them to keep them from sticking together.
Turn leftover fondue into a soup meal by adding your pre-cooked pasta to the leftover broth. Our Tonkinoise (Pho) Fondue makes an amazing lunch!
3- Fill up on dumplings!
Dumplings are a fun and spectacular food. They can turn any Asian fondue into an unforgettable meal. If you buy them in the frozen-food section, be sure to select varieties that can be boiled (ex: jiaozi) and not those that must be steamed (ex: shumai, xiaolongbao). Be sure to follow their cooking instructions. In fact, the majority of frozen dumplings should be pre-cooked beforehand to prevent them from falling apart during cooking. For a fondue meal, that means placing them on the table at the last minute, or even reserve a part of it in the freezer for later.
It’s also entirely possible to make your own dumplings by hand—it’s easier than you might think and makes a great “pre-fondue” activity to enjoy with loved ones. For a preview of the final result, take a look at our General Tao Fondue!
4- Explore the world of tofu!
In China, almost everyone eats tofu, not just vegetarians. Most surprisingly, you can often find some form of tofu in almost any meal, even those that contain meat. This vegetable protein absorbs sauces and broths particularly well and is considered an asset for a successful meal.
There are several very delicious types of fondue tofu, beyond the firm or medium-firm tofu in the vegetarian section of your grocery store. A little detour to an Asian grocery store may be necessary to get your hands on pouches of fried tofu (tofu puffs), and if you’re not afraid to order online, we highly recommend Yuba, which are tofu skin sticks.
5- Dare to try new flavours!
A generous amount of fresh ginger can give an Asian touch to any homemade or store-bought fondue, but why stop there? For a fondue with South Asian flavours, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves will work wonders! (Buy fresh or frozen – the dried version isn’t worth it, and neither is the version that comes in a jar.) In the Japanese version, miso and bonito flakes will give your broth an unexpected “umami” depth!
For the “hot pot” version, anything goes in addition to ginger and garlic: white and black cardamom, star anise, cinnamon sticks, Sichuan pepper, white pepper, an abundance of dry chili peppers, fermented black beans savory, and a hint of toasted sesame oil! Many of these specialized spices are available from companies that sell online, like Spice Trekkers (Épices de cru).