Monday, September 28, 2009

What makes a good hotpot

I think that I am easy to satisfy when it comes to good hotpot. But unfortunately, it is not always to either find a good hotpot restaurant, or else find enough friends who also want to have hotpot together.

Fortunately, most people like to have hotpot during autumn or winter in Beijing.

One of my favourite hotpot places in Beijing is this restaurant called 海底捞, or Haidilao in Hanyu Pingyin.

(I find the name of this restaurant rather special, actually. I always get the impression that it comes from the Chinese phrase 海底捞月, which translates literally to "fishing for the moon at the bottom of the sea". It actually means "striving for the impossible", since you can never fish the moon out of the sea, the only thing you end up doing is disturbing the reflection of the moon. I don't think the restaurant name means that though. It is probably called that because having hotpot is kind of like "fishing" food out of a pot of soup...)

To me, there are 3 things neccessary in every good hotpot.

Number 1: An excellent soup base
A good soup is very important to any decent hotpot. Usually, I like a light soup like mushroom soup. Some restaurants offer a hotpot with 2 or 3 types of soup, to give more variety. At Haidilao, I like the light herbal soup and tomato based soup. The tomato soup is nice and just a teeny weeny bit sourish and the herbal soup is light and doesn't have too overpowering herbal taste.

The spicy Sichuan chilli soup base is very good too.. but only if you have friends who can take lots of spicy hot food. I usually give up on the spicy one after a while.

Number 2:  A good dipping sauce
Haidilao has a dipping sauce counter where you can select and mix your own dipping sauce.

I usually choose sesame sauce and add lots of grounded peanuts, sesame seeds, celery and spring onions. A little bit of garlic and vinegar will help make the dipping sauce a whole lot yummier.

Number 3: Fresh ingredients
You can't really blame anyone or any restaurant for overcooking or undercooking your food when it cames to hotpot since you decide on the doneness of your food. Fresh ingredients is therefore key to make any simple hotpot great.

I find that Haidilao usually serves really fresh food. It is probably due to the huge crowd queuing at its doors all year round at meal-times.

Herbal Mushrooms and Tomato Soup


DIY sesame dipping sauce


Fresh hotpot ingredients - I always liked frozen tofu,
beef and lots of vegetables in my hotpot

Apart from the above, Haidilao also has one of the best service for a medium-range priced restaurant in Beijing. They have quite a few outlets scattered across Beijing, but I've only been to the one near the financial district.

海底捞火锅 (西单店)
Address: 西城区西单北大街109号婚庆大楼7楼
Telephone: 66174063

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