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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hot Pot Lunch

For those of you who've never had hot pot, it's kind of like going to a fondue place. You cook your own food in a giant pot of boiling broth of your choosing. I find it to be rather messy, but delicious usually. I went to one hot top place that provided aprons to the patrons of the restaurant, which I loved because too many of my nice shirts have been destroyed by hot pot grease. (Take a moment to say ew, it's okay.)

Anyway, when you go for hot pot, there's a burner in the middle of the table that they place the giant pot on. Bob and I chose the spicy broth today, and let me tell you, we can handle spicy but this was burn your lips off spicy. We've decided that from now on we're going to order less spicy and then adjust the spicy-ness using the spice and fixin's bar. Speaking of the fixin's bar, you'll love it, I know I do. It's just a counter usually with all the different kind of spices you can use to adjust your hot pot's flavor and yumminess level. We went with garlic, chives, onions and chili flakes today, although the chili flakes were entirely unnecessary.

I'd like to tell you the name of the place we went for hot pot today, but I truly have no idea. All I can say is that it's 4 blocks away from our apartment on Haifang Lu. Yeh, I know, that's not very helpful. The name was only in Chinese and of course I forgot to take a picture. But don't worry, I plan on going back, so I'll get a picture of the name of the restaurant next time.

We ordered lotus, mushrooms, tofu, pork slices and beef slices for our hot pot. I LOVE lotus, if you've never had it, it's reminiscent of okra but even better! It's kinda sweet and savory at the same time, go out and find some to try now. The pork was kinda blah, it didn't even really pick up anything from the spices in the hot pot. The beef slices were good, and cooked up very nicely. The mushrooms were okay, I'm still not use to my mushrooms being chewy. The tofu was great, it worked wonderfully like a little sponge and soaked up all the great flavors of the pot.

We threw all the lotus, tofu and mushrooms in right at the beginning so they could cook up and get tender, then we cooked the meat slice by slice as we ate it. Some places will provide you with a little fork thing to throw the meat in the hot pot, but this place didn't. I like the fork thing because then I'm not picking up my uncooked meat with my chopsticks. To make me feel better I'd always stir my chopsticks around in the broth while it's boiling before eating off the chopsticks again.

We had an interesting experience with the way the broth was prepared, that we'd never seen before. It was like a big chunk of spices and flavors had been frozen and then thrown in the hot water, so originally before everything began to boil there was a big chunk of flavor floating in the water. Our tofu, lotus and meat was also frozen to begin with, which made putting the tofu in the pot a little difficult. We ended up picking up the tofu with our fingers and delicately dropping it in the boiling pot.

Overall I liked the place. I don't think it's the best hot pot I've had but the staff was really nice and the place was big, open and airy. The spice/fixin's bar was well stocked and had lots of choices. And I feel like the price was pretty reasonable. (Reasonable being about $26 for both of us to eat, including my coke, and watermelon for dessert.) I would say it's too much for lunch, the quantity, not the price. The only really down side for me, although it's not that big of a deal, is that there isn't an english menu. We did all our ordering by looking at pictures, and there aren't pictures of everything. I guess it's just a sign that I need to be working on my Mandarin.

We're going to go back and try a different broth, so that we'll have more control over the flavors and spice factor. It seems like if you order spicy here, you lose some of the flavor and it's all spice, but we'll see.

I think tonight is Sushi night, stay posted. :)

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