It is warm and cosy for a family to gather around a hotpot and have a nice little chat while cooking their favourite food in a chilly winter. The recipe for healthy and yummy hotpot includes careful choice of ingredients and good food and personal hygiene.

When purchasing hotpot ingredients, you are advised to buy food from reliable suppliers, and fresh food is the food of choice. Make sure that the packaging of the prepackaged food is intact and check the expiry date on the food label.

After bringing the hotpot ingredients home, most of them should be stored in a refrigerator at 4℃ or below, while frozen food should be stored in a freezer at -18℃. Do not thaw frozen food at room temperature as bacteria may multiply rapidly. Better defrost in a refrigerator or under running tap water.

Food and personal hygiene must be observed during food preparation. After handling raw food, wash hands thoroughly before handling cooked food in order to prevent cross-contamination. All food ingredients must be washed thoroughly. When washing vegetables, pick off the outer leaves, then wash vegetables thoroughly under clean running water. When appropriate, scrub produces with hard surfaces with a clean produce brush to remove dirt and substances from the surface and the fissures. Poultry meat, pork and beef should be washed and cut into thin slices to facilitate thorough cooking. The shells of shellfish should be scrubbed and rinsed, and their internal organs removed.

Take caution if you are one of those who like to have eggs as hotpot ingredients. Not to consume eggs with cracked shells as they are prone to be contaminated by pathogens. Eggs stained with dirt must be washed thoroughly. Wash hands thoroughly after handling or coming into contact with eggs. Also, do not dip cooked food into raw eggs before consumption as pathogens may be present inside these eggs.

When cooking food in the hotpot, use two sets of chopsticks and utensils to handle raw and cooked food respectively. Whenever water or soup is added to the pot, wait until it is boiling hot before adding food. Most importantly, food must be thoroughly cooked. Seafood should be boiled for at least five minutes. Sliced poultry meat and pork should also be thoroughly cooked before consumption.

Finally, you should pay equal attention to healthy eating apart from safe eating. When enjoying hotpot, beware of the quantity of food and maintain a balanced diet. Eat more vegetables with high dietary fibre.