Hotpot boils thin slices of meat, seafood and vegetables in a communal pot of seasoned broth. Morsels are then plucked out as they cook. There are numerous regional variations of the dish. One of the most popular is Sichuan hotpot, which serves a numbingly spicy soup base. Beijing is also known for its own version of instant-boiled mutton – a flash-cooking of paper-thin lamb then dipped into a sesame sauce. And if you are concerned about hygiene (lots of chopsticks in the shared pot), there’s no need to be. Most restaurants offer an extra pair of chopsticks for pulling out the cooked items.
Hotpot is also big business: last year, YUM! Brands, the parent company of KFC and Pizza Hut, bought a stake in Little Sheep, a 375-store hotpot chain listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, to tap into widespread demand for the cuisine.
When to eat it?
While hot pot can be enjoyed year-round, it is especially popular in the winter. Hotpot restaurants were reported to be busier than ever in the recent cold snap.
Where to go?
Haidilao in Beijing offers authentic Sichuan hotpot, but doesn’t take reservations so be ready for a long queue. 2A Baijiazhuang Lu, Chaoyang District, Beijing (Tel: +8610 6595-2982).
Dong Lai Shun is also a good place to try traditional Beijing hotpot. 5/F Xin Dongan Plaza, Wangfujing Dajie, Dongcheng District, Beijing (Tel: +8610 6528-0932).
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