This soup usually causes some stress at the dinner table with my family- nothing too serious, mostly what happens is that my father doesn't follow directions and I get irrationally annoyed with him- so we've made it a guest night meal because the preparation is easy, the presentation is impressive, and everything works great when we're all on our best behavior.
Here's how it goes: first you prepare the broth in an electric burner set in the middle of the table, then use it to cook "dippers" such as mushrooms, shrimp, and dumplings. The broth cooks the dippers, the dippers add flavor to the broth, then at the end of the meal you put vermicelli noodles in the broth and eat it as soup.
Vietnamese hot pot
6 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water
2 stalks lemongrass, pounded (or 1 tsp lemongrass paste)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into rounds
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 dried Thai chilies
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tblsp. light brown sugar
1 Tblsp. rice wine vinegar
1 Tblsp. siracha
juice of 1/2 a lime
broccoli florets, cut into pieces
1 large sweet onion, cut into bite sized pieces
bok choy, in bite-size pieces
mushrooms, halved or quartered
gyoza or similar dumplings
peanut sauce or soy sauce for dipping (optional)
rice vermicelli noodles
scallions and cilantro, chopped for garnish
In the electric skillet, bring the broth and water to a boil, and add all the other broth ingredients. Let simmer on low heat for 15 minutes, then remove and discard the chilies and chunks of ginger and garlic.
In the meantime, prepare the dippers (chop/clean/dice) and place in bowls.
Set the electric skillet in the center of the table and let the family and guests cook and eat the dippers. You'll want the electric skillet on high heat the entire time- it should be lightly boiling in order to cook things quickly enough.
When everyone has had enough vegetables, shrimp and dumplings, clear the skillet of any leftover pieces and add the noodles. Let the soup cook for five minutes or until the noodles are tender, then serve the noodles and broth in small bowls with scallions and cilantro for garnish.