Hot Pot Chinatown – Fun Interactive Communal Eating
When I mentioned a Hot Pot restaurant in Chinatown, my English friends were baffled. In their mind, they associated this with a wintery stew from up north. Well, Hot Pot in the Asian context is sometimes called Steamboat or in some parts of the world, Mongolian Hot Pot. It is thought to have originated in Mongolia about 100 years ago. Now you will find versions of hot pot all over China and South East Asia or wherever you find the Chinese diaspora.
Hot Pot in Chinatown is part of a big Thai chain and this is their first outlet in London. It’s a spacious and modern space with built in induction hobs on the tables, not cramped and cluttered like some others in Chinatown. The tables are well spaced out and the staff are friendly and helpful. If you have not had Hot Pot before, they will talk you through it. Yes, you have to cook your own food.
As they only serve hot pot, the menu is just a selection of the raw foods available. You choose two broths from the 5 available. Being a Thai chain, I expect their Tom Yum to be good. We chose Tom Yum and a plain chicken broth. The Tom Yum was fiery and the chicken was made from scratch. The other popular choices are the Szechuan Mala (spicy) or the herbal chicken soup (an acquired taste).
In other Hot Pot restaurants in Chinatown, they are mainly mainland Chinese and the choice of broths and meats are quite different. Expect Hot Pot to be different.
While you are waiting, you can order some starters like a Thai green papaya salad. There is a sauce bar where you help yourself to a variety of hot and not so hot sauces. I’d recommend the House Sauce, tangy and spicy and just perfect for dipping.
What is Hot Pot or Steamboat?
It is a meal where everyone cooks their own food in a communal pot of broth. Think, Chinese fondue. It’s really popular in Asia as it’s a great excuse to get big groups together for a meal. It’s highly interactive and there’s something for everyone.
We like to do Hot Pot parties at home in the winter as it’s very sociable and a great alternative to a dinner party. Get’s everyone energised and involved. Instead of a table top hob, we have special Steamboat pots that is heated by charcoal. Usually, we make some dumplings to cook in the steamboat too.
How to eat Hot Pot?
You firstly order your broth and a selection of food to cook in it. Everyone has their own ladle and sometimes, a little basket like ladle too. This is to cook with and to fish out bits from the pot.
When the broth first arrives, don’t be tempted to put everything in at once. Start with the things you want to eat and also what takes the longest to cook, like meat. Most of the meat is sliced very thinly so it cooks very quickly.
The etiquette is to pick up bits that you want to eat and put it in your ladle, then hold this in the soup. Alternatively, you can follow, the “throw it all in and do a lucky dip” style. The temperature would have dropped a bit so put the lid on and turn up the heat until it boils. Then turn it down and everyone can start picking what they want.
We chatted, dipped, fished, ate and drank 0ur fill while catching up. Time flew by and you don’t really notice it.
This is how it continues until you have had your fill. The broth is constantly topped up through the meal, so there is always plenty.
What to order for the Hot Pot?
We ordered the Tom Yum and the chicken broth. The tom yum is very spicy but you can cool down with one of their ice drinks, I recommend the watermelon.
Depending on whether your group is vegetarian or not. Here I am going to assume you are all carnivores. We like to order a mixed selection of meat, seafood and vegetables. As you cook, all the ingredients will infuse a bit of flavour into the broth, making it rich and delicious at the end.
So my non-Asian friends might not be familiar with what’s on the menu or what strange things that appear on the vegetable tray. I can’t translate it all but it’s all delicious with no strange animal body parts.
- Marinated beef
- Fish tofu (highly recommend this)
- Sea bass
- fish balls
- mixed vegetables with mushrooms
- Tong Ho (also called chrysanthemum greens) a Chinese favourite that is good for your kidneys
We saw another table ordering crab but though it looked nice, would have been very messy to eat.
It’s safe for pregnant women to have hot pot too, just make sure that all the food is cooked well before you eat it.
Can you drink the Hot Pot Broth?
Yes, you absolutely can. It’s the best part of the meal.
When you’ve had your fill of the meat and fish, time for some noodles. There is usually a choice of noodles, from egg noodles to rice noodles. To make the noodles, take a handful and put it in your ladle. Dunk the whole thing into the broth for about 1 minute to warm it up. Then put this in your bowl. Top up with the soup and anything else you fancy that is still cooking in the pot. At this point, you can add an egg to the noodles.
Poach your egg in your own ladle in the soup. Make sure you hold on to it until the whites go opaque or it could go swimming in the soup and be lost forever.
Up until the noodles, it has been a really low carb, high protein meal. You won’t leave the table feeling bloated.
This is my favourite of the Hot Pot places in Chinatown. It’s a cut above. If you have never had Hot Pot, get a few friends and try this place. They’ve got quality ingredients and a nice environment. Go for the super hot Tom Yum soup and cool it down with an iced watermelon. Once you’ve done it once, you will keep going back.
Hot Pot London
17 Wardour St,
London W1D 6PJ
EatCookExplore was a guest of Hot Pot